Friday, May 23, 2008

Why I became a nurse

I didn't always want to be a nurse. In fact, when I was younger I had wanted to be a veterinarian. From the time I was a kid until I worked for my first vet I knew that's what I'd be. But then it just wasn't for me. (That's another story though!!) While I was in college trying to figure out what I wanted to be I got a job at a hospital as a phlebotomist (drawing blood). I worked early each morning and then went to school. It was a nice little routine and I liked the job. It was a technical job that you were either good at or not. I, thankfully, happened to be good at it.

A few months after I started I met Kenneth. He was in his late 60's and had already burried 2 of his sons. He had a lovely wife but was in ill health with a bad heart and bad lungs. He was deeply depressed about his sons' deaths and his health status. This was just one of many hospitalizations for him. I went in one morning to draw his blood and we started chatting. I could tell that he was a sad fellow but did my best to cheer him up. I then told him I'd see him the next morning. He resonded with "You were so nice to talk so much with me. If I make it out of here I'd like to give you a hug before I go home." So I told him that it wouldn't be an IF but a WHEN.

That night he took a turn for the worse and was transferred to the ICU. I didn't find out until I got to work that morning at 5am and went to get my bloodwork slips for my floors. I took the 500 hall and looked for his name but it wasn't there. My fellow phleb told me that Kenneth was in his pile in the ICU. We quickly switched around the assignments so that I could draw the ICU.

When I got to Kenneth's room in the ICU I was shocked at what I found. Kenneth, that I was just chatting with yesterday, was today sedated and on a ventilator. He had stopped breathing during the night and had had to be resiscutated. For some reason this affected me deeply and I started to cry right there in his room. He was light enough with his sedation to know that it was me who was drawing his morning labs and he too started crying when I told him that he would be getting that hug when he got off that machine and got better.

He spent a week in the ICU on the vent before being successfully extubated. In another several days he was transferred back to the 500 hall. Several days after that he was discharged home. And yes, before going home I got my hug!!

His wife thanked me profusely as apparently I was all he talked about once the breathing tube came out. He spoke of how he owed his life to me because he had given up and was ready to go and meet God until I came into his ICU room that morning and re-promised him that hug that we had talked about the day before. I became close to Kenneth and his wife after that and visited with them often. Kenneth used to call me his angel and always said that I had saved him. I always denied it and said he went overboard with it all but I knew that if I could make a difference for someone without any nursing knowledge then I could surely make a difference for lots more people with nursing knowledge. It did take me a few years and several more changes in my college major to figure this out but eventually I did get here.

As for where Kenneth is now.........honestly I'm not sure. I'm embarrased to say that too. This all happened when I lived in the south and I live in Connecticut now. I kept in touch with them for several years after I moved here but like all relationships, over time this one fizzled too. I imagine he has passed on by now with his medical history but with Kenneth you just never know. I do still think of him often though.


Anonymous said...

wow, what a great and inspiring story. i just found your site tonight and i'll be on it for a while. cheers

Jannet Mathews said...

Wow, that jerked a tear right out of my eye, Tracey. I guess your whole experience with Kenneth is one of the reasons why being a nurse is such a fulfilling work. I mean, it's not like an office job where most of your encounters are with your computer. You get to interact with other people, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Stacey said...

Thank you for sharing this... I have been recently having doubt about wanting to become a nurse... you have re-inspired me with this story :)
Thank you!

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