Most of you know that I am a palliative care nurse and that my job consists of helping patients who have a variety of serious/critical illnesses. Generally, that means working to get symptoms under control, making sure patients and their families are fully informed about their medical condition so they can make good choices about future care, and helping identify the best resources for services outside the hospital based on their goals. And yes, most of the patients I see are dying. But really my job is about helping people live.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to be part of a crazy (not really) cowboy (sort of) scheme (well thought out plan) to get a patient 7 hours across Kansas in a private vehicle instead of an ambulance. The patient’s brother and 2 nurse friends were driving to the hospital to pick her up with the full intention of attending to all her needs, no matter what, and despite the fact that she was at high risk for complications on the way. I'm not sure I fully understood all the reasons they wanted to do it this way, but it wasn't about me. We stretched the boundaries of all the rules, gathered unconventional supplies, and did our best to get this patient home, through the by-ways of Kansas, on one last adventure with her cohorts.
It goes without saying that all participants (who were imminently qualified by the way) were prepped on what to do if there were problems. We reviewed what would happen if she couldn’t breathe, what if she had pain, what if she got anxious, and even what if she died on the way. Nurses are realists. We prepare. Did I mention the patient was a retired nurse?
That night as I pulled in the driveway of my house I got the call from her brother telling me they made it to their destination with no problems. We gave each other virtual hugs and I told him what a wonderful thing he had done for his sister. Then I sat in the car for a few minutes texting all my colleagues who had been part of the plan to let them know “the eagle had landed”.
When I look back on all the meaningful moments in my life, the movie that I have playing in my head about what their trip was like, will be right up there in the top five. And THIS, is why, when people say to me “I don’t know how you do what you do”, I say “it’s really good work and I get to do interesting things”.