One more dance as a nurse

On a sunny Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, my husband and I went for a drive for a change of scenery. We were trying to get me out of the house since I had been looking at the same walls for a few too many days. Just an ordinary day…except for an ER visit earlier that morning.

They say that things happen for a reason and I’ve always been a firm believer in that. It most definitely was the case that day. When we left the house we almost turned and went a different route…twice. Instead we followed our original plan. As we turned onto a winding, county road and were driving along, I suddenly noticed a woman standing in the middle of a hayfield. She was frantically waving with one hand and had a cell phone in the other.

My heart instantly sunk and then I looked a little closer. Someone was on the ground. I instantly screamed for my husband to pull over. In under ten seconds, I transitioned into a Registered Nurse again. With my ER and trauma experience alongside me, I grabbed the first aid kit that is always in my trunk. Racing to the field and getting closer yielded the next sight that nobody ever wants to see; someone was doing CPR.

Assessing the scene and assigning jobs to people as they arrived made me so thankful that people were willing to lend a hand. I was instructing bystanders on rescue breathing and checking on how long each person had been doing CPR. My gut so badly wanted this injured man to suddenly have a pulse, stand up, and walk away from everything unharmed. My mind knew better though. The injuries were too severe.

During everything, I started paying attention to a second person who was acting very agitated. Suddenly, my heart stopped momentarily as it dawned on me that this was another person that had been in the accident.

Instantly I hollered for a couple of people to help and we got the second injured person to the ground while I maintained immobilization of the neck. The screaming that emerged upon kneeling made me sure that there were definitely broken vertebrae somewhere.

A police officer showed up; his face turned white as a I rushed to see if he had an AED with him. He didn’t, but said that he would do anything that I wanted him to. My gut was telling me that this was the first bad accident of his career.

After what felt like hours of hearing sirens, but never seeing an ambulance, one finally arrived. In actuality it was twenty minutes. Welcome to rural America, where the ‘Golden Hour’ is something heard of, but rarely obtained due to distance from healthcare facilities.

There were now two patients, several bystanders, and ONE ambulance. A helicopter was what we desperately needed. Several minutes later I felt the familiar vibration in my chest from the roar of the blades as our precious lifeline touched the ground.

We continued to work; all of us willing with all of our hearts for even an ounce of life to emerge. It did. Twice. The helicopter was loaded and headed quickly to the trauma center. Prayers were sent up with them. Before leaving, the flight physician, nurse, fire department, and EMTs, all discussed that if there hadn’t been a medical person on scene immediately that this would be a different outcome.

As my husband and I walked away from the scene, my eyes were brimming with tears. My heart so deeply wanted to believe that this man was going to survive, but my brain knew differently. A wife lost a husband that day, a mother and father lost a son, siblings lost a brother, and numerous people lost a wonderful friend. A life was saved that day also.

The words from a poem kept going through my mind.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough “Hello’s” to get through the final “Good-bye.”

A piece of my soul was also left in that field. It was selfish, but I had gotten to experience being a nurse again. A glimpse of my life before illness, back to when life was still…life. One more dance as a nurse. “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Life’s a dance you learn as you go.” ~John Michael Montgomery



These Lessons We Learn…

Symptoms, medications, doctor appointments, and living the “new normal” are what living with a chronic illness entails. While we are busy surviving each day, we also are learning pearls along the way; some raw and emotional, some silly and others that are heartwarming. Here are a few that I’ve come up with; I’m sure that I will have many more in the future.

  • Life before illness is a memory, you have dreams of going back to that, but it doesn’t happen. You are forced to grieve the loss of your previous life and reminiscing is painful and gut wrenching at times.
  • You have two lives. The one that the public sees and the one behind closed doors where you’re allowed to cry with frustration, scream with anger, and have pity parties occasionally.
  • There are times when you feel so alone. It isn’t that there is a lack of support, but on really bad days it would be so nice to have someone next to you and holding your hand.
  •  Until you meet someone else with a chronic illness, nobody truly understands.
  • It’s okay to give yourself permission to not feel strong, as long as you keep fighting.
  • Anyone who says that everything is going to be okay has never had a major illness. Don’t tell me it’s going to be okay; just be there for me.
  • Sometimes the best therapy is just sitting in complete silence with someone. You don’t have to say anything even.
  • You despise going to a new specialist who hasn’t reviewed your chart yet. When you get done with the consult, they say, “I had no idea your case was this complex!” Well maybe next time they will read the records ahead of time.
  • It takes more energy to worry about life than it does to live in the moment.
  • We cannot be afraid of what hasn’t happened yet.
  • As long as we are living and breathing, take advantage of the gift of life in whatever capacity that may be.
  • Make your bucket list and start working on checking things off.
  • There are more cheerleaders on the sidelines that you could ever imagine. They are all rooting for YOU!
  • You know you have a chronic illness if you keep the local pharmacy in business with all of your prescriptions.
  • It is possible to meet your out-of-pocket maximum for insurance in one day and within two weeks of when the calendar year starts.
  • Sometimes going a day at a time is too much to handle. Break it down further. Go one moment, one second, one minute, one hour, and eventually you will have made it through one day. Find something positive everyday to focus on. It can be as simple as the sun shining, or being able to take a shower.
  • Set small obtainable goals because if you set a big goal, you will feel like you are failing.



lessons learned


A language only recognized by the elite ‘illness’ crew

Everyone has their own method of communication. Even different sports seem to have different lingo; not just definitions either. Many of us are part of the “elite club of chronic illness”.

There’s seems to be an unwritten code among people with chronic illnesses. A secret communication method that you only recognize once you become part of the elite club. There’s something comforting knowing that another person, just, well, they just ‘get it’. In general, society will always ask how we are. They are expecting us to say good or okay. My term is ‘sunshine and roses’. But, a majority of the time we are lying just so that we don’t have to explain what is really going on. We hide things that are too hard to talk about or how we are actually feeling. If we ever said how we REALLY felt, all of our friends and family would turn around and run the other direction. I’m not sure about any of you, but personally I want to keep my loved ones around me.

Once you get ill and connect with others who are in similar situations, that is when things change. Don’t get me wrong. We still want to communicate with our friends and family too. There is something different about knowing someone with any chronic condition.

We form our own support system and help each other get through hard days and celebrate triumphantly on good days. People with illnesses have an unwritten code that only we understand. We can hear the feelings without seeing the words. We don’t expect sunshine and roses. We want to know how the others REALLY are and we say it. It’s an elite club to be in; not one that any of us wanted or chose, but elite nonetheless.

I have been online with people who were in the ER in the middle of the night, when their spouse wouldn’t get up. I’ve told them what was going to happen each step of the way. Warned what to expect next, what labs were going to be done and what medications were going to be given. I’ve talked people down from anxiety levels that were through the roof. You can feel the calmness in the way they write. But, unfortunately only those of us in the club can reach out. Each of recognizes when we need to reach out and lend a hand. So many times we will be there for a fellow friend before they even realized that they needed the help.

It’s a relationship like none other that I’ve ever encountered before. A relationship that I’m so grateful for. This unwritten language that exists. You’ll know it if you ever join the ranks of chronic illness.

secret key