I’ve told very few people the story of my nursing career, why I made the moves I did or what and who impacted me the most. Last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my nursing career and decided to tell this story.
As some of you know, I am a RN but didn’t practice for long (5 years) before I had Evan and became a stay at home mom. I don’t regret any of those decisions. I put a lot of time, sweat and tears into nursing school, only to work for such a short time. My skills have definitely helped me as a mom, but I truly believe one of the main reasons God had me become a nurse was to meet one very special family.
The day that I walked into one special 5 year old’s hospital room as a brand new nurse, and this spunky little girl looked at me and “interviewed” me to see if I was worthy of becoming her nurse, I knew something was about to change. The interview had one single question to it.
“Are you saved?!”
I looked at her, wondering where a 5 year old would find the amount of courage and wit that she radiated so brightly, especially given her diagnosis, treatment and the fact that up until this point, I was a total stranger.
I answered her simply, “Yes! Are you?”
“Yes!” She stated proudly, and after that I was allowed to complete my assessment or give her medicine or whatever else I needed to do.
From that point on, these people became my family. I requested her every shift I worked when she was there. Sometimes I would “fight” over her and would often get to work early just to request her on my assignment. She brought such joy to everyone in the unit and even on her bad days, her spirit never wavered. Cancer is an awful thing, and to take up residence in the body of a precious child is 100% from the devil, that’s all there is to it.
For two years, I laughed, cried, prayed and tried to figure out how to best help this sweet girl and her family. I was a bit confused about how someone not related to me, who wouldn’t even have come into my life had I not gone to nursing school, moved 100 miles for a new job in a new town doing something my advisor in nursing school told me was stupid.
(Ah, what we didn’t know then was if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it and do it well lol! 20 year old me didn’t know that though, but this is where it started.)
Other nurses told me I was getting too close. Apparently investing oneself as a nurse into the life of a patient by buying a Christmas gift, or Taco Bell when she didn’t want to eat anything else) was a surefire way to reach burn out and fast. That was ok though, either I would be the absolute best nurse I knew how, or I wouldn’t be one, I wasn’t giving half of myself to my patients.
In the spring of 2004, I decided to be a travel nurse to get out of a toxic on-again-off-again relationship cycle that I was stuck in. I had to put 800 miles between me and the emotional abuser to be free of him. While I’m really glad that I did this for my sake and my future, my one regret is that I went when I did.
Within 2 weeks of moving to Cincinnati, a piece of my heart died. This precious little girl who I had grown to love so much, passed from this world to the next, 15 years ago today (as of the date of writing this, July 17). I wish I had been there that day, as hard as it would have been, I had been there so many other shifts over the previous 2 years, but this shift, one of the most important, I was gone. I wasn’t able to hug her mama or her grandma, I wasn’t able to tell them right then and there how she had changed my life. My new boss wouldn’t even let me off work to go to the funeral service. My work shifted to auto-pilot after that. For the next 6 months, I trudged through every shift, counting the days till I could go home, and counting the days until my very last shift in pediatric oncology.
Right before Christmas in 2004, I finished my contract as a travel nurse and I drove home early one morning as snowflakes began to fall. My red Mazda Protege 5 was packed as full as I could get it, with two cats and a dog inside, and I carefully made the 8 hour drive back to NC. The next week, I started the new chapter in my life, as a labor and delivery nurse, having no idea that my life would change again the next spring when I met my soon-to-be husband.
Every day I carried a piece of my time in Chapel Hill with me, and my time as the nurse for this little girl whose personality was 20x too big for her body. I was reminded of the humanity of each patient and that they weren’t just charts full of paper or a medical record number on the computer. The families and lives of each patient was important to me, and I never could figure out how to be the best nurse that I knew I could be, in our modern medical system.
In January of 2007, I found out that I was pregnant after months of trying. Like a perfectly orchestrated plan, God removed the scales from my eyes and I was able to see the reality of our obstetrical system. Previously, I was an adamant supporter of “all the things” that went along with having a baby, epidurals and all. In my mind, home-birthers were idiots and we should take all the modern precautions right?
Turns out, not so much. Through a series of events, I saw everything they don’t tell you. If a patient was going to have a reaction to the epidural, they were my patient during this two week time-span. Literally, every patient had a side effect from it! One shift, we were running to the OR for an emergency c-section and God said, “Amber you can’t do this.” Meaning, have my baby in a hospital. Not that they are evil, but low-risk mothers don’t have to go that route, and it wasn’t the path I was supposed to take.
From then on out, everything changed as far as where and how I would have my baby, and so received A LOT of pushback from my co-workers. The funny thing though, I didn’t care the slightest bit. All of my time since the moment I first set foot on the 5th floor of UNC Children’s Hospital had prepared me, odd as it may sound. From the moment I answered that question, “are you saved?” to the moment she went on to heaven, I knew, the ONLY thing that mattered was Jesus. I didn’t need the approval of anyone else, and if a 5-7-year-old can have that attitude, then so could I. I knew the person God made me to be, and I was open to seeing how God worked through the lives of others and pick up all those wonderful pieces and weave them into my heart, creating my story.
Thank you Sakiah for being who God made you to be and never letting anyone or any circumstance dim that light. You shaped me into the nurse I became and into the mama that I am because of your no-nonsense, no-holds-barred and “love Jesus or else” attitude!
Until I see you again in heaven, I love you and will help look after your family however I can. On Sunday, we will eat a piece of cake for you and maybe a taco 😉.