Nurses care for patients. That is our primary and overriding duty. But in order to care for our patients, we also need to take care of ourselves.
During my Death & Dying lecture in Fundamentals, one of the key lessons we learned is that in order to effectively help patients and their family deal with such issues, we need to have our own issues with the subject resolved. The rationale being that one who has unresolved issues with the topic of death and dying won’t be able to properly offer the help and care the patient will need at such juncture. It makes perfect sense, actually. The greater truth is, however, that this same lesson applies to pretty much every type of care we offer our patients.
This is a lesson that was driven home today for me in my skills lab when we learned how to insert a nasogastric tube. An NG Tube is a type of catheter inserted into the stomach through the nasal passage. It is used to decompress (get stuff out) the stomach, as well as for feeding and delivery of meds in some cases. In most cases, it is a treatment done for only a few days, except in rare cases. My mom was one of those rare cases.
Mom developed a duodenal tumor that shut down her gastrointestinal tract cold. In early February of 2009, I had to take her to the ER when she started feeling unwell. By the time we got there, she began to vomit violently and continuously, some eight times in a one-hour period with no signs of stopping. By the time she was finally taken into the treatment room, she was almost unconscious from all the fluid lost. She was immediately given an IV for rehydration, and when they detected very little bowel sounds, the doctor ordered an NG Tube be placed to decompress her stomach.
Imagine for a moment having a 15-inch plastic tube stuck into your nose and down your throat. Now imagine that while having an almost uncontrollable urge to vomit because you have three-days’ worth of food, liquids, and body fluids stuck in your stomach.
I saw the nurse put the NG Tube in Mom and it wasn’t pretty, even though we all knew it was for her benefit. It did its job, though. For the next 100 or so days of hospitalization over the following six months, Mom would not be without an NG Tube for more than 10-20 days. Towards the end it stayed in permanently; she took it to hospice home care and had it on the night she died.
I have unresolved issues with NG Tubes. Every time I see one a shiver runs down my spine as I recall that moment when it was inserted into her as an emergency procedure, and I remember how long she had it. I knew today we would be learning this skill and I steeled myself as best as I could before even leaving the house. The moment the professor pulled out the equipment, I lost my resolve. I withdrew, physically and emotionally. I hid in the back of the room. I fought back tears. I did not want my classmates or professors to see me this way. When I couldn’t take it any more, when the mannequin looked like Mom to my eyes, when I felt the world collapsing around me, I got out of the skills lab and hid in the bathroom.
I am a nurse student, and part of my training is going through situations like this so that I can face my own demons, fight them, vanquish them, and in the process gain the wisdom necessary to serve others who will be where I was back in 2009, or today for that matter. Putting in an NG Tube is a skill I need to be able to perform to pass this class, so you can bet that I will go back to the lab during practice hours and learn how to properly do it. And for that I need to resolve my personal issues, because ultimately there’s nothing I want more than to be a nurse.
During my mom’s stay at the hospital throughout 2009, she had to have a lot of blood transfused to her. The tumors she had were especially hungry for hematocrits and as her levels would drop suddenly, pints of blood had to be had at the ready so keep her stabilized. All in all, over the 5 or so months she spent in and out of the hospital, she ended up using 12 pints of blood.
You know those commercials where they say to please donate blood, that you might be saving a life? Guess what, they’re 100% true. Thanks to those 12 pints of blood my mom was able to live just a little longer. She had no way to pay that cosmic debt back, but I had.
Since late 2009, I embarked on a small quest to donate those 12 pints of blood back (and just to put it more in perspective, that’s 1.5 gallons of blood). Last night I made it. Last night I donated my 12th pint of blood of the last two-ish years, and finally managed to pay back what was owed.
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I feel awesome. I know for a fact that this blood I have donated will go to help someone else live a little longer, be with their loved ones a little longer. I know Mom is high-fiving me right now.
I don’t intend to stop. I intend to continue donating every 2 months, because someone will always need blood. I exhort you to donate blood regularly as well.
For Mom, for myself, for those who will need it and will have it thanks to my and your donations.
If there’s one illness in this world I take personal it’s cancer. That shit took my mother and it owes me big for that. Unfortunately, it is a devastating disease that continues to threaten thousands, and it needs to be fought against with tooth and nail.
This here to the right, that’s Kelly Cline. She has just been diagnosed with cervical cancer and she has decided to fight that shit with a positive attitude. I used to wonder how anyone could remain upbeat when confronted with a diagnose of cancer, but I saw that firsthand with my mother. She also put on a smile and said, Let’s do this.
I don’t know Kelly, but my friend Ryan Macklin does, and my friend wants to help his friend in her hour of need. To that end him and some other game designers have put together a collection of roleplaying games to help raise funds that will go towards paying Kelly’s medical bills. They are calling it the Random Kindness Encounter Bundle and it includes 8 roleplaying games and some fiction, along with a chance to unlock a ninth game if the $4000 goal is met by the end of 2011.
Do a mitzvah and get great games in return? You cannot pass that up. I’m not. I know my mom would approve.
Follow the link, help out, get games. That simple. What are you waiting for?
Yesterday, August 8th, was the second anniversary of my mother’s death. I spent it flying, mostly, and getting ready for the fast of Tisha B’Av. To be honest, it almost slipped by me.
Much like last year, the anniversary came during Gen Con, arguably my happiest geekiest time of the year. Last year, however, I was in a very bad place emotionally and personally. Gen Con was an escape, literally, from everything except from myself. It also being the first anniversary, it hit me really hard. I remember being piss drunk at 3AM, the time when she died, and wandering the streets looking for ways to further my descent.[ref]Strangely enough, it was precisely at this time that I met with Ryan Macklin and he offered me This Just In… From Gen Con for 2011.[/ref]
That wasn’t the case this year. I am a very different person one year later. I went through almost a year of therapy and some crucibles that changed me and made me the healthier person I am now. So when Sunday night rolled around and I was just packing and thinking about the transportation in the early morning to the airport, it suddenly felt like a cold splash/slap when I looked at the clock and saw that it was just past 2AM. I almost, almost, had let it pass unnoticed, unmarked. I kept packing and 3AM rolled around. I did a small prayer and thought about her at that precise moment.
I felt somewhat guilty that I almost forgot about it. The alternative of being like I was last year was not appealing, either. Had I been there at that dark spot, it would’ve meant wasting a lot of therapy and blood, sweat and tears. Not to mention that I know my mom wouldn’t like it a bit. But then again, almost having that moment slip by because I was concerned with frivolities was maybe too much. And I realize I am beating myself too hard here.
The truth is this: it is now two years since my mom died, and I still miss her terribly so. The last two Gen Cons I find it bizarre that I’m not taking a moment each night to call her and tell her about my day at the con. The week before heading out to Indy, as I returned home from work, I had that urge to call her in the afternoon after work, something I hadn’t experienced in months. Though I now go through life normally, there are times when this hits me again, and I just need to power through it and move along. I am ok, I really am, but I also have a hole within me since the day she died that won’t be filled in ever again. I’ve learned to live with it, but sometimes, just sometimes, it hurts.
To my mom, whom I loved and still love like only a son can love his mother. I miss you.
After a year and a half of taking all the prerequisite classes I needed, on May 13th I took the HESI (Nursing School Entrance Exam) and turned in my application to the FIU School of Nursing BSN program.
I got great scores in the HESI. I needed 80% in both the Math and English parts to pass, and I got 92% in Math and 97% in English. Though I am now taking the one class I still needed for my prerequisites, the application is in and all that is left to do is wait and see.
I cannot tell you–like, honestly, I can’t put it into words–how it feels to have reached this goal. I had a few moments when I thought I was gonna cry but I didn’t. Not yet. When I get accepted maybe.
I had to write an essay explaining why I wanted to become a nurse and why I would be a good candidate for the program. My essay is below. I think it says it all.
I did not set out to become a nurse. I went to university, got my degree in English and I was happy; even when it proved challenging to find work, I was sure I’d made the right choice in getting a degree in something I enjoyed. Then life happened.
In 2009 my mother was hospitalized for a total of 118 days due to what was eventually diagnosed to be a metastasis of the cancer she had beat back in 2007. From February to July 2009, I traveled back and forth to Puerto Rico to be by her side. I put my life on hold for months at a time so I could be of help in those difficult moments.
During the time in the hospital, it wasn’t the five-minute doctor visits that gave my mother and her family succor. The ones that truly made a difference were the nurses. They were the ones who learned all our names, what my mother liked, what the telltale signs of her symptoms were. They were the ones who came at all hours to calm my mother down when the pain was too much, the ones who were patient and understanding when my mother was being stubborn, the ones who held her hand when she was alone and frightened. Even when she went into hospice, it was a nurse that made her last days the most comfortable they could be.
I did not set out to become a nurse, but after witnessing the vital difference they made in my mother’s life, I was inspired by their example. I realized that I could not go back to doing anything else that did not have that kind of impact on people’s lives. Just as the dozens of nurses that had treated my mother had affected her life, I knew that I could do that as well—that I had to. So after eight years, I decided to go back to university to get a second degree, and become a nurse.
An English graduate is an uncommon applicant to the Nursing program, to say the least, but the skills I learned in getting my BA are skills that I can bring to this program as well. I am trained in research and argument, in writing and delivering clear, concise messages. I already know the rigors and challenges of upper-level classes, the dedication and discipline they demand. I have also seen firsthand the work done by nurses, been through personal tribulations that allow me to sympathize and empathize with those I would be helping. In short, I have life experiences to back up my academic training, and I now bring these to the goal of becoming a nurse.
It is my greatest desire to join the FIU Nursing program and I hope it is one you will fulfill. You will not regret it.
I’ll keep you updated.
Throughout this year, I have had one little mission. While my mom was in the hospital last year, she had a total of 12 pints of blood transfused into her at various times during her 4 months in the hospital. I decided that I would repay those 12 pints and donate them myself. So far during 2010, I’ve donated 5 pints, the most recent one being yesterday afternoon (it would’ve been 6, but last time I went to donate, I tried to donate red blood cells but my vein got infiltrated and it had to be scrapped). That means that I’ll be done with my mission at the end of next year. But I want to do more.
On Oct 12, I will turn 36 years old. In Hebrew, the number 18 is pronounced “chai,” life, and thus I’ll be turning two-times-chai. I’m running with the theme of “life” a bit and have decided that for my birthday, instead of gifts, what I would like is to host a virtual blood drive. Given that today is my Hebrew birthday (26 Tishrei), it seems like the perfect day to launch it.
As I write this, Gen Con is just about a week and a half away and I cannot wait to board the plane that will take me from Miami to an extended weekend full of gaming goodness in Indianapolis. Seriously, I am stoked. I missed Gen Con last year due to the death of my mother so this year’s con will be making up for two years of Gen Con awesomeness.
This year I will be working alongside my friends at Rogue Games, repping their games at their booth (#1539 ), hopping to get gamers to try out their very excellent games Colonial Gothic, Thousand Suns and the new Shadow, Sword & Spell. Why work with Rogue Games? Two reasons: Richard Iorio asked for volunteers to help him staff the booth and given I always go to Gen Con with an empty schedule, I did not see any issue with lending a hand; in fact, I was thrilled to do so. That is related to the second reason: I have been to Gen Con three times before, as a regular gamer once and as a member of the media twice, and I wanted to experience the con from the side of the vendors. I am a publisher, but my products so far are all electronic, so this is an opportunity to get an education on what it takes to staff a booth at the con which will hopefully pay off in the future once I have physical games to take there for sale. It also relates to a general shift in philosophy in my life, that of helping others; it is the reason why I decided to start studying Nursing at 35, and it also influenced my decision here. By helping Richard, I am able to gain a small personal benefit in terms of a learning experience, but mainly I am able to help him have a more relaxed con experience since he won’t be running the booth by himself as he has done in years past. Win-win situation.
If you want to find me, here are the hours I will be working the Rogue Games booth, arguably the best times to pin me in one place. Know that if you drop by, along with the greetings, I will also talk to you about the awesome games at our booth.
I knew this was coming, though I wasn’t sure when. Well, it dropped today.
You can see the dedication on the preview available at the product page, which I have expanded here (click to enlarge):
So what’s the story?
There was a phrase my Mom used all the time. It was like a mantra, and I don’t know about my sisters, but it got etched in my mind as a clear message of how Life works and how we should live it.
“Lo mejor que hizo Dios fue un dia despues del otro.”
(The best thing G-d made was one day after the other.)
It’s all about letting time pass and being open to the healing it brings.
Cancer and death are two topics that have been on my mind prominently recently. Starting last week with the weekly episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which brought to mind both my deceased parents, continuing to a realization–and vocalization (to my wife in person, and on my blog on Mother’s Day for a short period of time before I deleted for the time being)–of the true theme of my game in progress, to Mother’s Day and lastly to the events of last night and today for someone whom I only know via online circles, but whose story I’ve been following for a year or so. To say that my thoughts have been on the heavy side would be a gross understatement.
This is going to get long and a bit emotional, in case you don’t feel like reading any further…