Anyone who knows or has spent anytime around me is all too familiar with my passionate revolutionary spirit and love of debate.
Having spent 25 years in the profession of nursing, I have basically seen it all and a lot you wouldn’t want to.
Quite frankly, my crash and burn from arguably the noblest of devotions to duty and my God-given calling on this planet was because of precisely that. I really did…’I cared, too much’ and its an impossible way for one of God’s humble servants to live…
I was a terrified teenager when the docs in England finally decided to remove my tonsils. I suffered countless days sick from school, extremely happy to be on the settee at home, reading fiction, comic books and the works of Hardy, Orwell, Longfellow and Laura Ingalls Wilder…
Already my curiosity and love for American history , life and culture was very evident for I found myself engrossed more and more in American literature…Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald…
So the night before surgery, a dedicated caring, forever youthful third year student nurse took me under her wing and kept me busy helping make tea, talk to other patients and distracting my neurotic countenance from having a downright meltdown there on the ENT ward…
I do not remember her name, but at the age of 18, I proudly announced to my Mum that I wanted to go in to nursing.
After, she spluttered tea and a horrified ‘what?’ at me, I kinda saw her point. She had to spend countless hours calming me down, talking me out of a panic attack, a child riddled with good old garden variety agoraphobia (of which my grandmother suffered) and specifically emetophobia (a dark secret I have kept to myself and one that really cramps your party going style!).
But, ”Helen” she said “you’re so squeamish, how will you cope as a nurse?”
I never could answer that but confronting my fear, irrational or completely rational (you be the judge!) certainly helped and I thrived on helping and caring for others for many years.
My nursing experience and knowledge made it possible to travel to America and I worked at Florida Hospital in Orlando for many years.
I specialized in pediatric oncology nursing and developed a thirst for continued learning and research about better, safer treatments, symptom control and cures.
It wasn’t long after entering the US to nurse that I started to witness a trend towards the over prescription of medication, tests and procedures by doctors…
The world of pediatric oncology proved to be the only exception with the documented improvement in cure rates and survivorship programs. So, naturally it was a field where I felt I could honestly and with a clear conscious, care for my patients and their families.
Otherwise, we’re out there, legions of nurses, techs, aides…chasing our tails; drawing blood, over medicating, over testing and preparing elderly people (or any age for that matter) for crazy procedures and surgeries…
It’s exhausting…try a 12 hour shift on a saturday night. Anywhere…the pediatric unit, the emergency room, psychiatry, geriatrics…
You would not believe the psychological impact on a 50-60 hour a week, night nurse from a little town outside of London! Folks, it wore me OUT…
So when Vernon returned to the car this morning, smiling broadly about the headlines of the Tennessean today : ‘patients need less testing, treatment doctors say…’ www.tennessean.com
…it was in beautiful acknowledgement of my rant earlier on this week about countless painful and costly procedures and surgeries and the fact that many have suffered because of the greed of the medical establishment.
Oh! and I know, I have heard it umpteen times from the doctors…’well, we have to cover every angle’, ‘what if the patient sues?’ ‘we have to rule that out’ and ‘what about missing something, how about mal practice?’…
and believe me, even though they look like they know what they are doing, act like it, seem to give-a-damn,
Don’t be fooled…
Hmmmm….do you really want me to start talking about the medical mistakes I’ve seen? Probably not and I choose not to dwell on the innumerable, avoidable, unavoidable and downright tragic…
Instead when I think about my nursing years, I try to concentrate and reflect on the joy of caring for children, working side by side with outstanding pediatric oncology practitioners, seeing the positive results of my work and dedication …
But tucked right behind all those warm and fulfilling memories is the fact that healthcare reform in America is a VERY long time coming…
(ex-RN and former IV drug user) now spends her time livin’ laughin’ and lovin’ the arts, namely writing, drawing and photography…
I wanted to share with you my favourite of all poetry by Longfellow ‘A Psalm of Life’
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
" Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums,
are beating Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.