Last year, I watched the clock hand tick down the final moments of a shift and I felt the overwhelming sense of accomplishment, fear, guidance, distrust and wonder flood my body.
I had experienced a similar feeling many years back while balancing on both knees as I compressed my hands into the chest of my Grandmother as I thought about the importance of regulating her heartbeat after she had had a cardiac arrest. As my Grandmother lay medically dead in front of me while my twenty-something year old brain shut down, I knew it was a matter of life and death.
In this case, it was a tale of death and the fight of trying to restore life and the forever asked question of, “did she survive?”
Unlike others who often choose to stay in the background for many reasons such as fear, uncertainty and the urge of being physically sick while those who are diehard addicts would openly rush to become the heroes of the day; it was my one and only moment of being introduced to the adrenaline rush that comes when trying to save another human’s life.
When commencing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and feeling a person’s breastbone cave in a third of an inch under my hands, I survived on the knowledge my grandmother, who now resembled a nameless person as what I would later define as a coping mechanism, had a family that needed and loved them.
Unfortunately, it would soon dawn on me that one of those people who loved this person I was trying to save was standing against a sterile hospital wall and using it for support. Taking in the colour of my Mother, Lois’ skin and how irregular her breathing was, I barked an order for her to push the emergency buzzer and open the curtains for the emergency response team. Soon, the sound of stampeding feet could be heard before a deep bass voice stated calmly, “CPR commenced at 0700hrs. Give me details of the patient’s condition” as people fluttered around the patient in question.
It would be the realisation of watching a lifesaving episode of Meredith Gray climbing onto a patient’s chest and performing CPR that would potentially save my Grandmother’s life. Having been pushed out by an emergency response member and blindly reaching out for Lois’ hand, all I wanted to do was peel back the flimsy paper curtain and observe what was happening.
I glanced down at my Mother and noted the tears trailing down her cheeks as she attempted to muffle the sounds of her sobs. Like a bitch, reality came crashing down and I soon found myself standing in front of a handsome but yet, incredibly fierce male doctor and asked for him to repeat the question.
He asked in that calm voice, “Are you or are you not a medical student?”
Having asked for clarification, I was informed I had been yelling out medical jargon and certain procedures that medical professionals would know. Raising an eyebrow when asked how I had known exactly what tests and interventions were required or needed to be ordered for a patient, I admitted I had done extensive cardiac research of my own. I admitted to months spent hiring and studying medical textbooks from my local library and bribing those on the local University campus to borrow their textbooks because “curiosity hadn’t killed the cat, just yet.”
Not to mention, I had extensive knowledge after spending years in and out of the hospital whilst looking after my grandparents due to their semi-declining health and because, I wanted to know what happened to heart and brain after a stroke or cardiac arrest (heart attack). I possessed an insatiable urge and need for knowledge relating to the heart, how the four chambers within an intricate and very much-needed organ can handle the pressure of undergoing extreme amounts of pressure, a physical toll on the body and how everything within the human body relates to homeostasis and a balance of life and death.
I also admitted that my ultimate dream was to become a Cardiothoracic surgeon because the heart was an interesting organ with a secret lurking in all of its four chambers. After having blurted out my all-time secret and feeling like I was going to be subjected to a doctor bursting into hysterics at the stupidity of a girl, I watched the doctor raise an eyebrow.
He asked, “you read a textbook on cardiothoracic and you watch Grey’s Anatomy? Why haven’t you taken the GAMSAT test for a Bachelor in Medicine or taken the first step and become a nurse as we need people like you.”
Even after highlighting a professional option and the potential to further educate myself as I was an answer-seeking person, my Mother and I thanked the response team for reviving my grandmother as they left the little cubicle we had been placed in. As I turned around to close the curtain for privacy and seal off the differences between our little community and the world, I looked at the nurses sitting down at the desk with cups of tea and biscuits and felt a mixture of disgust, distrust and repulsion.
With the curtain firmly clenched in my hand, I watched in anger as these nurses dunked their biscuits into the cups of tea as they laughed, giggled and joked over paperwork while openly discussing their life outside of those hospital doors. Firmly yanking on the curtain, I looked at my Mother who was shedding tears once again at the thought of losing her mother and I made the decision to register my interest in becoming a Registered Nurse.
I knew within myself that I had an underlying need and desire to have answers for the questions that kept me awake at night, the view of having medical textbooks lining my bookcase and the ability of being able to not only save someone’s life. But also, the responsibility of being able to emotionally support someone through the loss of a loved one.
This knowledge of becoming someone more appealing in society because I had a ‘fancy’ degree and being able to converse with likeminded people allowed me to build and establish an environment I desperately seeked at the time and escape from the mundane reality I was living.
Five years later and unlike those A&E nurses from years ago, I found myself watching the clock tick away steadily in the background as I counted down the remaining minutes of my evening shift. Next to me were my favourite girls (and yes, I have favourites) who broke up the silence with the endless sound of fingers hitting keyboard keys and the steady swish of a page being moved. As the charts were filled with documentation on who’d had a bowel motion, passed urine and had been showered for the afternoon; I brought my mug to my lips and blew a steady stream of warm, moist air across the top of my tea.
I thought about what life had been like as a pre-registered university student and wondered where I would be in life if I hadn’t elected to stay up that night, watching that particular episode. Like my residents with Dementia, I could not remember what life as a young twenty-something year old was like as someone who had no ambition to succeed in life. Simply because I didn’t know what it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life and it also stemmed from the reluctance I had, when gaining the independence my parents so desperately wanted me to grab by the horns and run with.
My final moments of a Graduate Registered Nurse would be spent thinking about my university years spent encased in a bubble of anxiety and depression as well as the constant doubt I had about myself and the questionnable tenacity I had to succeed in life. I thought about how I had converted from being an avid tea drinker to someone who only survived on coffee, three-olive shaken martinis and the endless hours upon the dancefloor with Lady Blacksnot III.
Although my early-twenties were vibrant and full of alcohol and careless pick-up lines from strangers, I reflected on the accomplishments I had over the past few years. How many near death experiences I had experienced over the years whilst driving home after a shift and the car accident that fatally killed my little green machine and nearly me, in May 2016.
Shaking off the anger that consumed me, I paused my thoughts to take another sip of tea and wondered how my relationship with Mr. Darcy, the long-awaited-with-baited-breath bachelor of my dreams, had not only managed to flourish and grow. But how it paved way to creating moments of laughter, peace, tranquillity and adventure.
While wondering about my soon-to-be-changing relationship status, I discovered how and why my relationship had worked and it simply boiled down to: both of us made an effort, put in time and thought about one another and actually wanted it to work. As well as openly admitting to what it was exactly what the other wanted in the relationship, how we show each other as a person, member of the relationship and partnership.
But like many things changing on a daily basis and discovering not everything is beachy and peachy when someone rips off your carefully constructed glass because of envy and hatred, I realised our relationship continues to grow to this day because we are open and honest about our feelings/thoughts and I no longer resort to hiding my anxiety attacks when discussing or seeing Mr. Darcy’s extended family, because I know he will support me.
As the clock’s hand ticked closer to the final resting hour, I thought about those nurses and was able to understand why they had been sitting at the nurses station with cups of tea and biscuits.
The reality was, like me, these nurses would have worked non-stop for the whole duration of their shift and only stopping to escape to the bathroom or waiting for someone to arrive to check a Schedule 8 medication. What I had failed to see as a family member and someone in shock was the hazardous pile of notes, desperation and tiredness written bluntly across their faces because they had so much to do in such little time. As such, the urgency to get out of work as they were afraid of being asked to stay back for another shift, soon wavered the anger and distrust I had originally felt.
Having silently thanked those nurses for doing an incredible job as well as apologising for holding a grudge, I made a mental toast towards my final remaining six months of being known as a Graduate Registered Nurse.
So as you can read, my story of how I became a Registered Nurse is not the average story you often receive when asking someone how they became a nurse. Although I have heard stories revolving around a family member being an inspiration, the person accidentally fall into nursing or they’re here for the “hot doctors and money”, my reasons for becoming a Registered Nurse continues to pave ways on how I communicate and interact with everyone within my field.
Especially when being a Nurse for 99 residents, 10+ staff and learning the ropes on how one should efficiently and productively delegate orders where appropriate (this is 100% correct, I look after 99 residents at any one given time). My desire to not be the nurse known as the ‘bitch of a nurse’ and “Nazi” has encouraged me to be open and honest when calling family members to apologise profusely, when having delivered the wrong medication. Especially when discovering on my second solo shift as a Grad Nurse and asking on four separate occasions to a staff member who knew these people, that Mrs. A wasn’t Mrs A.
Instead she was Mrs. B, who looked like Mrs. A.
Talk about a major cock up.
I also think about the times I have fought tooth and nail for dying patients to be reviewed for pain relief and when informing the family of the doctor’s refusal, I promptly burst into tears and told them that I feel as if I am letting not only the resident but the family down as well. Although it has happened a few times, Dearest Reader, I feel guilt as I am supposed to be offering soothing words of comfort and a shoulder to cry on and yet, I find myself being offered comfort by the family member as they can hear how frustrated I am about a doctor not living up to their oath.
Least to say, this “doctor” is still on my hit-list and every time I hear his name, I growl “Bastard!”
Like many things that come full circle, we ultimately find ourselves in either two places and that being hell or at the pearly white gates. Now, I believe if this were a eulogy speech being expressed at my funeral, I would want the final paragraph to be one of class, elegance and a shit load of humour. Because at the end of the day, funerals are meant for laughter and not one of intense sombre and pathetic wailing.
Having said this, my final paragraph would be:
“I originally had my heart set on becoming a cardiothoracic doctor because the heart fascinated me. I also had desire to know how the heart responded when your breath was robbed from you at first sight of love, the crazy beating when they brushed against your hand and the overwhelming sensation of knowing you had achieved everything you had set your mind to achieve in your final moments of being a person, an inventor, a creator, a liar and a wonderfully gifted phenomenon.
Instead, when I discovered I had to sit an interview and my GPA was slightly a little too low for medical school, I learnt the grace and art of what it takes to be a nurse. I wasn’t born for the position nor was the position created for me. In fact, I simply stumbled upon it like a drunk after one too many martinis and thought to myself, ‘why the hell not give this a try?’ Having packed my bags with a faint idea, I graduated university with a Bachelor Degree and became what I always wanted to be: a heart person.”
With much love,