It is National Nurses Week 2017. I am sharing a picture of a nurse’s cap that is probably like none other. It is beautifully hand beaded by a colleague as a gift for me. I was very touched by the incredible detail and that it was crafted especially for me. As I look at it I reflect on my nursing career and the impact of nursing on others. In celebration of National Nurses Week 2017 I’d like to share a story from my early career (nurses wore caps in those days) that’s still imprinted on my memory.
A two-year-old boy had been flown in from another city with severe burns to his body. He had been a victim of an accidental fire that engulfed his crib. As a student nurse, I entered his room with trepidation. I saw a toddler hooked up to multiple IVs, oxygen, and numerous other machines. He was bandaged from head to foot. I gasped and walked up to his bedside to see that this small child was so swollen from all of the IV fluids and the trauma, that his eyes were closed shut and it was impossible to open them. As a result of the major burns he was on complete isolation to protect him from infection.
I was gowned from head to foot with only my eyes showing. All I wanted to do was weep for this little soul in so much pain and alone. I talked to him but no response. I put on sterile gloves and touched him ever so gently. He lifted one hand up to reach my hand. As I have small hands, my gloves were too big so the tips of the gloves were extended about half an inch past my fingers. He discovered the glove fingertip and he grabbed it and let go. It snapped like a miniature balloon and then he smiled. He did it again, and to my joy I realized that we now had a way of communicating beyond seeing and talking.
For days during his care, he would grab the fingertips of the gloves, snap them, and start to giggle. This was our only way of connecting and we laughed together; he knew who I was and trusted me to care for him through many difficult and painful procedures. I looked after this brave little boy for 4 months, while he went through multiple skin grafts, dressings, and rehabilitation, until he recovered and was ready for discharge. As you can imagine, we continued to have a very close relationship throughout that time period.
I am still humbled and inspired by the power of connection with another human being that can help heal major trauma. Whether or not you are a nurse, you never know how a connection will be made. Just know that it has the power to change lives for the better for those who are cared for, and also for those who have the privilege to touch another child or adult in need. Take the time to acknowledge a nurse this week.