Tomorrow is National Nurses Day, and it is celebrated through May 12 as National Nurses Week. It is a time dedicated to the passionate caregivers working around the clock to help others see the best of each day and the next. Even though it is their day/week, many of them will not have the day off. Personally, I believe nurses are the cornerstone of the medical world, yet some of the most underrated within it.
I have friends who are nurses, family who are nurses and many others that I know who are going to school to be nurses, up until the last year of my life National Nurses Day never meant a thing to me. But now I get it. I have seen first hand the way a nurse puts everything before him/herself; not for the sake of their job, but for the sake of a stranger’s life. I have seen them work a twelve hour shift for the third day in a row with the biggest smile on their face, only to stay at work an extra twenty minutes if it meant that person they are caring for was okay and/or happy.
It bothers me that I never paid attention to a day this important. My life has been so greatly impacted by nurses over most of the last year. While I appreciate each and every hardworking nurse out there, I really need Tessa’s nurses to know that I appreciated every minute of their care. For everyone else out there, be sure to thank a nurse that you know. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
Dear AFCH P4 Nurses and Nurse Assistants,
I have seen a lot of nurses in my somewhat short life; almost all entirely related to Tessa. None that ever compared to the care and devotion that you showed my daughter and my family over these last several months. And honestly, I do not know if anyone could ever match the quality of your compassion. It is obvious that this is not just a job for you, but that this is your true and elite calling. So if ever there comes a time when you question the bigger picture, I hope you can remember little Tessa and how much you mean to her and to me.
Leaving this hospital in the hopes that we would never return to stay on P4 was bittersweet. Over the course of a half a year, AFCH had been our second home. I can say that because I burnt at least ten bags of popcorn there before I figured out the microwaves’ trickery. Leading up to each admission I would pack up all that I could to make our space here “home” for the better part of a month at a time. Every time we opened our room door, the first thing I would see is a pleasant note on the board welcoming Tessa back. For a moment my anxiety about the upcoming round subsided because I knew that Tessa would be safe in the hands of people who truly cared about her. That calmness carried into each day that we were privileged enough to have any of you care for our daughter.
You helped us through long days in isolation and early mornings with nausea. You quietly crept into her room in the middle of night to change her diaper, check her vitals, and take care of her so that we could sleep. When I would feel guilty for sleeping over getting up at night, you were always there saying, “that is what we are here for.” Sometimes I would see you in that time, handling her with fragile hands; caring for her as if she was your own. You knew her well enough to know her favorite snacks, movies, games and songs to cheer her up when she was having a melt down. You knew me well enough to see by the look on my face that I needed coffee or a break. And I still have not forgot about that. I have not forgot about any of the amazing things that you did for her every day.
The day we celebrated Tessa’s last day of chemo was the same day our elation was shattered with the news of abnormal blasts in Tessa’s biopsy results. My heart was ripped in half thinking that this fight was far from over. And maybe that still is the case. All I had that day was one nurse right there looking out for me knowing what I needed most in that moment…a million tears, a long talk, a hug and rest. When Tessa’s hair started falling out, another nurse helped me collect it as it fell so fast while I cried over each handful for days. She reassured me that it would be okay and that she would be the most beautiful bald baby around. Without Dan being here every day, I was never alone as long as I had my nurse friend there. As happy as I was to move my family on, I miss seeing our P4 family.
My appreciation stretches far beyond the care that you gave to Tessa. When the phone calls and text messages from friends or loved ones stopped coming about two months in and the visitors slowly dissipated, in the midst of our solitude it was your friendly faces that got me through the roughest of days. And bless your hearts because you probably didn’t even realize it. You were much more than Tessa’s nurses, you were her friends…and mine, too. For all of that and more I just want to say thank you. Thank you for taking care of Tessa. Thank you for being there for me. You see hundreds of kids every year, but you make a serious impact on each one of their lives. I know because I see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes when she sees you and calls you by name. You work your butts off over long shifts like it is only two hours, skip meals, answer a million call lights without ever knowing what is coming your way and so much more; and you always do it with grace and joy…even though I am sure there are days when you don’t feel so joyful.
You see unimaginable pain and suffering, yet in the same day you witness or create miracles. I do not know how you do what you do, but your compassion slays me. I am grateful for what you do and for how well you do it. Without any of you, my daughter would not have made it this far. Without a few especially close to me, I could not have finished most days. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
May each day be filled with love and hope.