A defining moment in nursing is when you realize that you are doing exactly what you were meant to do. In nursing it can be a connection you make with a patient or their family. For nurses it’s not the perfect bed or the successful delivery of a medication. Rather, it is the personal interaction, compassion, and empathy, even getting emotionally involved with patients. As nurses we become intimately involved and share times with our patients at a time when they’re most vulnerable. But these also can be the times when they are the most open to change, and we can have an impact on their making lifestyle modifications.
Oftentimes, we have more of an impact than we realize. Have you ever had entire conversations with people who remember you but, for the life of you, you cannot remember them? This was true for me.
At Market Days in Mathews, Virginia, a lady came up to me and told me how her grandchildren were doing. I smiled and acknowledged the information she offered, clueless as to why I’d be interested in her grandchildren.
As she talked, I could tell she was pleased to see me and offered warm conversation. Then she recounted the terrifying day (when I was on duty) that her grandchildren had gotten into a bottle of Depakote and shared the “candy.” She had been caring for three grandchildren. One of them has a seizure disorder and takes Depakote, which she happened to have in her purse. The two younger children, ages three and four, got into her purse and found the prescription bottle. The childproof cap was no obstacle for them. The four-year old generously shared the newfound candy with his three-year-old sister, using the “one for me and one for you” style. Shortly afterwards, the three-year-old began staggering and falling, with slurred speech.
The grandmother began investigating and found the empty bottle of Depakote behind the couch. She drove the children to their pediatrician’s office, and the three-year-old was directly admitted from the office to the Med-Surg unit of the hospital. I was the admitting nurse, and no one knew that the four-year-old had also taken the Depakote.
As I was admitting the child, I noticed he was staggering as well. Upon inquiry of the little boy, he told me he had shared the candy with his sister. The doctor was paged stat, and we proceeded to treat both children. Henrico Doctor’s Hospital was notified and sent a crew, including a pediatrician and respiratory therapist. In preparation for their arrival, I assisted the doctor in placing NG (nasogastric) tubes in both children. After the children were stabilized, there was an opportunity for family teaching and helping the grandmother deal with the guilt she was experiencing.
So this is what was being recounted to me now! The woman had remembered me for the past twelve years. The children recovered well and are now teenagers. Ironic how I hadn’t remembered her face, but she had remembered mine. Now, I will never forget her. That conversation at Market Days, though I did not realize it at first, reaffirmed my love for nursing and the role nurses play in people’s lives.
LaDonna Fry, R.N.
Intensive Care, Riverside Walter Reed Hospital