The hospital-style bed lurks emptily alive in the pale living room. Rust flecks along its silver rails pock my distorted reflection. Cold sheets triangulate like sagging tepees, housing the smell of long-term illness. These are the ghostly remains of hospice care.
Ashley, my youngest daughter, has a genetic condition so rare it is still considered "incompatible with life." Yet today, Ashley is twenty-five, and she hasn't just survived. She rides horses and she competes in jazz dance recitals with her many friends with intellectual disabilities. When she gets a new dress, she twirls while modeling it for strangers, as if she is on Next Top Model. At age four, she made the front page of our local newspaper because she was so darned cute gritting her teeth as she pulled her walker toward the finish line in her first Special Olympics race. Surely, she is a great example of persevering.
I HATE nursing!
I was at Wernersville State Mental Hospital doing my three-month psychiatric rotation as part of my nursing program.
Deciding to leave school, I approached the phone with trepidation. I was nineteen years old, and I needed to convince my parents to let me quit.
I always knew that I wanted to be in medicine. When I was a child, I discovered a magazine story of a little boy named Dylan who received a heart transplant and asked my mother to read it to me over and over again. I loved the before, during and after progression that the narrative and glossy pictures charted: the blue-lipped child before the transplant, the over-the-shoulder shots and details of the operation, and the healthy child after. I was just as fascinated by the disease state as the wellness. Dylan, who was born with a hole in his heart, compelled me.
Feeling the urge to void my bladder, I insert the catheter, but nothing comes out. Odd. That’s never happened before. I drink some water and, an hour later, I insert another catheter. Again, no urine appears, just mucus on the tip of the catheter.
I need to void. My whole body is screaming to void. I’m sweating profusely as my system looks for a way to get rid of the urine. I know my BP is rising as my body copes with this stress. I also know that whatever is happening is bad. Really bad. It could damage my kidneys. So I pack up my unusual meds, change the towels wrapped around my torso to help with the sweating, and take myself off to the ER.
In accordance with my faith, I lit a memorial candle for my beloved father this morning; it is four years today since he died in my arms. The candle will burn for more than twenty-four hours. Not only does it remind me of the grief I still feel, but it also represents the light that was my dad--and his fervent wish that I would persevere by embracing the opportunities that life offers.