Thankful RN

Late one evening, in Open Heart Recovery, my seventy-five-year-old patient’s temperature shot up from 98 to 103. I gave her Tylenol suppositories, double-checked the blood she was getting and called her surgeon. Dr. Vance instructed me to repeat the Tylenol, add intravenous steroids, then quickly hung up the phone. He needed some sleep after performing cardiac bypass surgery all day and on-call.

Mrs. Smith’s elevated temperature both worried and puzzled me. She might be having an allergic reaction or malignant hyperthermia.

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I was on the 36th hour of a 48-hour ambulance shift. We had been up all night and had remained busy all day. I was starving, so I ran into a deli for a quick fix. The kid behind the counter told me they were closed. I paused, jaw dropping in disbelief.

“Just kidding, boss,” he cackled.

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Gratitude in Small Doses

Being over ninety years old, I have a long list of things to be grateful for. I’m especially grateful for all the lessons I learned over the years that helped me become a better practitioner.

Much of this was acquired fortuitously. The era in which I began my practice. Having four dedicated children who taught me to be fully present by never hesitating to tell me when I wasn’t.

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Tug of War

A tug of war lives within me, and my physical body and soul are struggling mightily. Gratitude pulls one end of the rope, and burnout yanks the other. I feel immensely grateful that I can meaningfully contribute to people’s care during the pandemic. I’ve triaged, tested, talked with and tended to countless patients since COVID-19 began. I am blessed with wonderful family, friends and community plus a job with deep purpose and meaning. Each workday I feel enriched by those around me.

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Thank You, Scientists

Today, I am grateful. After eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, anger, weariness and despair — today, I feel hope. It is finally the day that the two youngest members of my immediate family have been vaccinated against COVID-19, making our family circle of protection complete. 

As a pediatric hospitalist, I have seen plenty of acute COVID and MIS-C. I have nearly lost my mind trying to home-school my children in the early days of the pandemic, while also working full time.

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Life Is Good, Even When It’s Not

Each morning when I wake, my first thoughts are of gratitude—for the soft bed in which I lay, deliciously warm as I pull my down comforter around my shoulders.

Yes, I may also be experiencing nausea, diarrhea, neuralgia, an acne-like rash reminiscent of my teenage years covering my face and bald head, and the permanent swelling in my left arm from lymphedema. The side effects of cancer treatments seem endless.

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A Kick of Gratitude

When I finally called and told my in-laws that I was six-and-a-half months pregnant with a baby boy, they were over the moon! I had lost two babies as miscarriages before my son and daughter were born, so I was wary of breaking the news early. We decided to name him after my dad Joseph, as my oldest was named after my father-in-law!

A few days later, working as a nurse in a local hospital, I went in to help one of the nursing attendants put a patient on a stretcher.

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Gratitude? I’m measuring it in numbers these days.
Two inches of hair now sprout from the bare patches on top of my head. To be honest, when I look in the mirror first thing in the morning, I don’t feel all that grateful. An unfamiliar shape stares back at me, one that looks a bit like a tufted titmouse. That’s the front view. The rear view resembles an abandoned bird’s nest swirling around the crown.
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Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer

I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer after three weeks in the hospital, not being able to eat or drink. All that time I had a nasogastric tube that caused a dry sore throat, yet I was grateful for having the tube because it eased my abdominal pain.

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Nightly Words of Thanks

As a little girl, I ended every day reciting the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. As a septuagenarian, I continue the nightly practice of praying—emphasizing my gratitude for all the people who have enriched my life.

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An Editor’s Invitation: Gratitude

Dear Pulse readers,
November’s More Voices theme is Gratitude.
I know that many individuals have a gratitude practice, where they–and sometimes their children–take time each day to enumerate things they’re grateful for. I’m not one of those people, even though it seems like a worthy, fortifying thing to do.
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