It's 1987 at the Maternity Center in NYC. Two certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) examine a 3 months pregnant patient who presented with abdominal pain (me).
They diagnose probable appendicitis and work hard to convince me that I need to go to the emergency department right away despite the fact that my husband and I have no insurance to pay for a hospital visit, let alone surgery.
Around 3 a.m. the following day, the still blood-spattered surgeon reports to my exhausted and worried husband that my appendix was "black and turdy looking" and indeed needed to be removed.
Six months later, another nurse-midwife delivers my healthy daughter. At the time I didn't appreciate it, but looking back now I think, "Wow, those CNMs may have saved my unborn daughter's life, and maybe mine as well"!
Their example also spurred me to go back to school 20 years ago and obtain my nursing degree. The little baby girl they delivered is now all grown up: happy, healthy and also an RN. Sadly, I never wrote any of them a letter of thanks.
Fast-forward to 2001. The World Trade Center bombings are a fresh memory as I sit in the waiting room at Newark Beth Israel, wondering why my mom's endovascular AAA repair is taking so long.
Then an RN in OR hat and scrubs, still vibrant and personable after a full day's work, walks in and introduces herself. She's done with her shift but knew I must be worried, so she stopped by to ask, "Hey, did any of the docs come to speak with you yet?"
I tell her "no," so she sits down to fill me in on the details of how all was going smoothly until the last stent ruptured the iliac artery and the surgery switched over to an emergency open AAA. They were still wrapping up in the OR.
Even though it was the end of her shift and the kids and her life outside work were waiting, this nurse took the time to sit with me and share honestly with me. Even smile with me; her vivacious personality left me wishing she were my next-door neighbor and confidant.
I vowed to write and thank her as well as all the other friendly, helpful staff and nurses I met that day. Unfortunately, my mom bled out during a second surgery later that night and died.
I became wrapped up in life's details - funeral arrangements, a job change, BSN classes, etc - and never wrote that letter of thanks. But I have never forgotten them, either.
You come home from work like me, dog tired, feet hurting, trying to rid yourself of that frazzled feeling and you wonder if it's all worth it.
Did you make a difference in the lives of your patients today? Maybe.
But you have, many times in fact, and you may not have received any recognition or thanks for it. You cling to the memories of those patients who have thanked you, in word or with a card or letter.
For all the patients and family who maybe didn't write, but still remember you and your dedication years later, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We remember you; you made all the difference.
Never doubt your calling as a nurse. It is worth it!
Jane Van Jaeckel is a staff nurse, MICU/SICU, Morristown Medical Center, Morristown NJ
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