Thursday, August 25, 2011

Doing Work That Matters

I had not been working in the ICU very long, so it was very generous of the other nurses to let me be assigned to the fresh trauma patient.  We all fight over fresh traumas, and this was a good one.  It was unusual in that the guy had a very extensive and serious injury, but was still conscious.  Most of the bad-off trauma cases are so bad off that they are either in a coma, or are sedated because they require a ventilator.

Honestly, I don't remember the patient's name, so we'll call him Ryan.  He was my age.  Ryan was my only patient that night because he required such close monitoring, so we spent a lot of time together.  He had made a lot of bad choices in life, and there is nothing like sitting in an ICU bed on the brink of death to make you reevaluate things.

He was understandably very shaken up by the experience of falling from a 4 story building and being impaled on a fence post (see, i told you it was a good trauma).  He spent a lot of time talking about his life, his relationship with his father, various mistakes he'd made, and what he'd like to do differently if he survived this injury.  Mostly he was just processing out loud, and i served as a listening ear while i did my work.

Ryan was a hairy dude.  The kind of guy who starts to show a 5 o'clock shadow around lunchtime.  He had facial hair that started under his eyes and went all the way down his neck.  He was still wearing a C-collar because he had upper extremity parasthesia and was awaiting an MRI to evaluate his spine.  He hadn't been able to shave in 3 days, because he was too busy having his life saved.  His neck was very itchy under the collar and it was really bothering him.  He asked me to give him a shave (he couldn't use his arms to do it himself), to which i said, "Hell no I'm not taking that collar off, because i don't want to be the girl who makes you a quadriplegic."

He kept pestering me about it, and i kept saying no because it was too risky.  An itchy neck versus lifelong spinal cord injury is kind of a no-brainer from a risk-benefit analysis.

Eventually he wore me down, and i consented.  We had a deal that he was absolutely not allowed to move a single muscle while that collar was off, and he would not blame me if he sustained any paralysis as a result of this shave.  I assembled my supplies and we began.  It was a very suspenseful shave.  I pretty much had no idea what i was doing (since i don't shave my face very often), and my hospital-issue razor was very dull.  I was terrified that he would sneeze and sever his spinal cord.  When i finished shaving him and refastened his c-collar, i told him, "Well it's definitely not the best shave you've ever had, but i hope it fixes the itching."

He replied, "It is the best shave i've ever had.  You know why?  Because you did it for me without any thought of what i would do for you in return."

Fast-forward several years: I'm a Stay At Home Mom now.  I haven't been a SAHM very long, so i haven't had the time to reorient my identity around being a full-time mom.  A month ago, i was a professional.  My identity was largely defined by doing a super-intense job.  Saving lives.  I believed that my work was noble, and worthy of respect.  So it's confusing to leave such an exceedingly all-consuming field, and instead spend the whole day on the floor with mini-me. 

I was REALLY good at what i did.  I experienced some very exciting and adrenaline-filled situations.  I did work that mattered.  I think, in contrast, about other women my age who have a job, but it's not necessarily a career.  It's not something that defines them, or something they are inspired by.  When they quit their empty, boring job in order to stay home with their darling babies, do they look back?  Do they wonder if they are doing the right thing, or are they 100% gung-ho about staying home?

This past year, i ACHED to be able to stay home.  I wanted it more than anything.  I cried many a brokenhearted tear over it.  I am thoroughly grateful for my change in circumstances, i truly am.  I love that BabyGirl with my whole heart, and it's a delight to see her smile everyday.

But here's the thing.  I believe that i became a nurse because God called me to do so.  He gave me the talents and skills.  He provided for my education, through my parents' generosity.  He gave me the strength to keep going when i was vomited on, pooped on, yelled at, bitten, kicked, sexually harassed, etc.  He predestined me to be a nurse, He called me to be a nurse, He empowered me to be a nurse.

And now it's over.

That's what i'm confused about.  Is He okay that i'm not using those talents anymore?  I mean, He really invested in me, and now i'm done.

I think today i received my answer.  I had just laid the BabyGirl down for her nap, and was walking back to the living room to pick up Every Single Toy We Own from the floor.  Out of nowhere, i heard those words from Ryan, "You're doing it without any thought of what she will do for you in return."

The tasks may be different, but the purpose is the same.  I'm still taking care of a person who can't give me anything back.  I'm not using IV's or ventilators or cardiac monitors to do it, but i hope that God will equip me for this career just like He equipped me for that one.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible how your life experiences are colliding in the realm of motherhood. What a true and inspiring conclusion to this story.