Once in a while, a day comes along that knocks the wind out of you. Always unexpected, it forces you to unwillingly press the ‘pause’ button on the daily routines of life as you know it.
This past week, we set off on the first of our summer adventures. We were all excited to spend a week in the sun with family, catching up on sleep and much needed relaxation. Twenty-four hours after arriving and easing into ‘vacation mode’, my husband didn’t feel well. Convinced of an oncoming stomach bug, he resolved to beat it by drinking lots of water to flush his system and hydrate himself.
When things didn’t get better, we looked to no avail for an open urgent care facility and reluctantly decided to head to the local ER. Hours later, when his symptoms had gone from bad to worse, they ran routine blood work and informed us that due to very low sodium levels, he would need to be admitted. Who knew that over-hydrating could be dangerous enough to necessitate a hospital stay?
A sodium IV drip, some anti-nausea medication and an Ativan thrown in, thankfully gave him much needed relief and knocked him out. Luckily, our kids were being doted on and distracted by their amazing grandparents, adorable cousin and superhero aunt. The doctor ran through the realistic possible reasons why things had reached this point, but for some reason (liability, perhaps?) had to throw in some terrifying possibilities as well. As I sat in the ER watching him sleep, my mind spiraled out of control.
Hours ago, we were swimming and playing ‘pool monster’ with our kids. In what seemed like a split second, we were in a very different place, surrounded by thoughts, sounds and people whom were all going through something they perceived as unhealthy. The complaints I overheard ranged from chest pain, a dislocated shoulder, a migraine and the possibility of bacterial meningitis. Some patients were young, others old, some were with family members or friends, others all alone. I watched as the short-staffed ER nurses hustled and tried their best to make everyone a priority. When my phone was dying, the ER nurse somehow quickly found a charger for me. I listened as he gently encouraged the young patient behind the curtain next to us to get past her fear and agree to the spinal tap she apparently needed. He magically reappeared with tea for her father once she acquiesced and was wheeled out for her test. All this was done quickly with admirable efficiency and humility.
Once we got settled into our room at 2:00 a.m., we were greeted by a smiling, reassuring nurse who instantly made us feel as though my husband was her only patient. She told us funny stories about her experiences living in Manhattan. She brought me extra blankets, pillows and socks. She stopped short of tucking us both in for the night. Before leaving our room, she calmly reassured me that she had complete faith that things would turn around significantly by the morning. As she spoke, I fought the urge to hug her.
Through the endless night, I watched the techs take his blood pressure, and run blood work and I continued to be in awe of this profession and the kind of individual it takes to do this job, and do it well. Without a doubt, all these professionals were tired and spread thin. The physical demands of this profession coupled with having to play counselor to each patient and their neurotic loved ones, can in no way be an easy task. I thought of all the years they’ve spent in classrooms and labs, making hospital rounds, all the while learning how to heal the countless ailments of the human body. I considered the massive amount of debt and loans many of them have had to incur in pursuit of this profession and the toll it must take on each of them physically, mentally and emotionally.
In the morning, the shift changed and we were greeted by another spectacular nurse who once again felt like an old friend from the start A little while later when we heard gut-wrenching crying coming from a room close by, our nurse gently closed our door and with tears in her eyes and her lips quivering told us that it was a very sad day on the floor. Clearly, someone had passed away and she was handling it as best as she could. She was honest in saying that some days and some patients tugged at her heart more than others.
I thought about the jobs we all have, the challenges, the frustrations, the complaints. The healthcare profession is unique in that along with the presenting problems and diagnoses come human lives, families, connections, and emotions. These professionals deal with people of all ages, races, backgrounds, at their most vulnerable and somehow have to figure out a way to help them and their loved ones through a stressful time, as best as they can.
Luckily for us, less than 24 hours after being admitted, my husband was discharged and back in the pool playing Pool Monster. Things could have turned out differently and we’re glad to put it behind us. I’m doing my best to ease back into carefree ‘vacation mode’, chasing away the ‘what ifs’ and instead focusing on the endless list of things to be thankful for – my supportive family, our access to amazing healthcare and insurance and so on. I’m especially thankful for every uneventful day where our health is not an issue. Now, I also think of those nurses, doctors and technicians who got us through that difficult night.
I’m inspired and grateful for healthcare professionals everywhere for choosing a difficult profession and dedicating their lives to helping people everywhere, every day.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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