That PICU nurse LIFE
No one can understands what a PICU nurse feels, thinks, and experiences.. that is, besides her PICU coworkers in her moments of true devastation.
It’s Pediatric Nurse Week, and some people don’t know what we do, no one seems to know what a PICU is… and my biggest pet peeve – when they confuse PICU for NICU.
My wish is that no one will ever have to know what a PICU is, because knowing means needing, and needing means something terrible happened to their child. And when they do, that’s where we come in… PICU nurses and PICU intensivists. No one can understands what a PICU nurse feels, thinks, and experiences.. that is, besides her PICU coworkers. We see the sickest of the sick, the accidents you can’t even fathom, the illnesses that are seemingly unjust for a child to experience, and the stories of abuse and neglect that rip our heart to pieces. I have only been a PICU nurse for 8 years, and some of the nurses I work with have been doing this for over 20 years. No matter how much time has passed and how many times I’ve seen the same diagnoses, each kid leaves a mark on my heart… their resilience, the smiles, the tantrums, and unforgettably their story. Then there are those that crush my soul.
Inside in my heart I am praying for a miracle, although I know how these scenarios go. The doctor has the hardest role, giving the news that no ones wants to hear, offering some comfort and etching to leave the room. And I am left all alone with this family. As I am doing my work, I hear the family not just crying, because crying just brings a nuance of sadness. I hear the family weeping from across the room, the wailing of their souls that pierces my heart and because I cannot bear this pain inside, my silent prayers become a plead I bring before God. In that moment, I ponder about justice, faith, miracles, and I have nothing to offer these families. Despite the personal struggle I have with hugs, I clench my insecurities and fears and offer them an embrace anyway. They say a hug speaks words of a language we all understand and in that moment, it isn’t about me.. it’s about them. I fight my tears, trying to hold them back. What will they perceive? That I am weak, maybe? Yet, I have learned there are moments it’s okay to cry to with them, allowing myself to be vulnerable with them; for me, this is more than just a job.
Have you ever swam with waves? If your like me, you’re going deep into the ocean as far as the life guards will allow me. Sometimes I don’t catch the waves correctly, and instantly the ocean is tossing me around as I am struggling trying to come up for air. When I’m with these families in the room, I experience moments when I just want to come up for air… every hour for the next 12 hours, then the day after that and the day after that. The intensity of the depths I experience in moments as a nurse are surreal, how much more are these families aching? Whether dead or dying, these moments seemingly become the last memories with their little one.
The hours and days will pass like the seasons and as they block every memory of this horrible event, I will soon be forgotten.. as I should, though I will remember every moment of it. No one warned me it was going to be this difficult. I don’t think I would have believed them even if they had. Nothing could have prepped me for the wounds that I bear today. Children died and sometimes there is no closure. I serve water to the man that tried to kill his child, I made his bed, and made sure he got his dinner. I look at him with a smile on my face, bite my tongue and ask “is there anything I can get for you sir”. No one prepares you for what comes next. I, myself can not fathom the insurmountable strength it takes to wash the dead body, yet this is the last our task before we are called to move on to the next assignment. It’s kills us inside; how do you recover from that? My fellow PICU nurses shoulder the burdens we each carry, they lived through it with me. How do we recover from all that happened; we walk out the doors of the hospital into the world that has no comprehension of this devastation, trying to be as normal as we can. I don’t know if we know what normal is anymore. They go home to their children, embracing them and grateful for the life that is sustained and I am reminded that I remain childless, yet somehow there is a world of children that will unfortunately need us tomorrow. So we return the next day, the next week, the next month and soon they have all added up to years. Our heart remain broken for the wounds we cannot heal and hopeful without a fault for that even one miracle we may witness.
#PICUNURSE … strong when we are weak, brave when we are scared, humble when we are victorious, badass everyday