Things for which one cannot prepare.

I have never claimed to be a calm person. It is not what I’m known for.
I drink too much caffeine, and I startle easily.
I am, by nature, an on-edge creature.
I do not however, thrive on adrenaline. I specifically have chosen to spend most of my nursing career in calmer settings: Palliative Care, Hospice, clinic oncology nursing.
Even when I was a new grad RN, and was working noc shift in an extremely acute care Bone Marrow Transplant setting, I always enjoyed the quieter times. Not because I’m lazy; trust me, there is plenty that happens between 7pm and 7am on the inpatient Bone Marrow unit. There is often chemo being hung, IV bags of fluids, blood and platelet transfusions, and not uncommonly, the actual Stem Cell/ Bone Marrow transplants happening in the wee hours.

One of my first patients on that noc shift, was a delightful woman who had herself  been a Hospice Social Worker. She was not doing well, and I went to her room to visit after her large group of friends and family had gone home. Her husband, exhausted, was napping on the extra cot by her bedside.
I completed my technical nursing tasks, and on my way out, asked her if she would like me to turn off some or all of the overhead room lights.
“Oh, no!” she replied, quite seriously… “Night time is when all the ghosts come out!”

I learned early on that noc shift nurses have a special role: barring the unexpected, things do quiet down on the unit after the throngs of doctors, Physical Therapists, Case Managers, and the majority of the visitors have left for the day. The hallway lights are dimmed, there is less frenetic activity, and sometimes this is not an easy time for the patients. There are fewer distractions, pleasant or otherwise. The noc shift nurse is often the calm, soothing, voice that the patient needs for reassurance when the hubbub of the day has settled down.

Anyway, it is important for a nurse, or hell, anyone be able to recognize what type of work environment their personality is best suited for. I knew all along that I would never be an ER nurse, nor any kind of trauma or ICU nurse.
I’m more of a long-haul kind of nurse. One of the things I treasure about all the types of Oncology Nursing I’ve done is that I develop in depth, long lasting, relationships with my patients. On the Bone Marrow unit, a typical stay was a minimum of two weeks… some patients were with us for months at a time. It was always a tremendous treat when a person who had done well after transplant would come by the unit a few months after discharge to visit the inpatient nurses. Unlike the outpatient clinic staff, we often didn’t get to see people once they were past the acute transplant recovery stage.

When I left the Transplant world, I spent a few years working as a Nurse Coordinator for a Head & Neck Cancer Radiation Oncologist. This too, was a super-rewarding position for me: the Radiation treatments for Head & Neck patients were nothing less than a special kind of hell. I became extremely close to many of these folks, and the reward was that they usually did really well after treatment. For the first time, I was working in a field where the treatment could often be considered curative. It was a brutal, but hopeful, type of treatment, and seeing patients come in for their follow up visits was always a celebration.

“RJ” (2015 photo shared with his permission)

However, as previously stated, I’m not your Go-To Gal in a crisis.
Especially, as it turns out, when my own kid is involved.

I’ve decided to spare my readers the gratuitous bruise shot, because I already splashed it all over my private FB page and got the sympathy I was seeking.
Suffice it to say, there was an emergency in our home, my husband and I both thought or son was dead, and I ran like a hellion up our basement stairs in my socks. I slipped in my panic, landed my full body weight on a chunky femur, and now have a rainbow colored bruise measuring (conservatively) 16 x 5 cm.

I did not, in any way, shape, or form, stay the slightest bit calm. I completely lost my marbles in my swivet. It was not pretty.

That whole airplane – oxygen mask -thing? Cover your own mouth first?
Whatever. As my husband says, he’s our only kid. We don’t have a spare.
He has a mother who is prone to hysteria. Sorry kid.

A week prior to our terrifying event, my kid woke me up from a nap. He was playing his harmonica in his bedroom which is all of 2 meters away from mine… and the Geriatric Labrador was howling in accompaniment. I was grumpy as all get out that day. Now, I think I can honestly say that I will not take *precious moments* like that for granted in the future.

I have no current photos of HH with his howling canine pal, but I leave you with this gem from September, 2010. I think it paints the picture fairly well.




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