Last week my dad was in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) unexpectedly after a heart attack. Although my dad was 79, it was a surprise. You see, dad was healthy for a 79 year old man. He was still working, played sports (basketball and softball), and worked out in the “off season” of sports. He had a heart attack playing basketball with people half his age (or younger) as he did on every Tuesday.
I have a new appreciation for personnel in the medical field – especially the nurses, doctors, and others that work in places such as ICU (Intensive Care Unit), CCU or other areas where they are caring for people in critical and/or traumatic cases. I can’t imagine having to interact with families in such conditions every day. I’m sure many of the patients come in for a scheduled procedure, recover, and go home. But the odds are some have a very different outcome. I couldn’t imagine dealing with that on a regular basis. Even though you do your best, sometimes it just isn’t enough. That has to be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.
I want to share just a small portion of my experience and introduce you to some people.
When we were informed about my dad’s heart attack, he was in the Emergency Room so the family gathered in the hospital. We listened to the many doctors and specialists. Every doctor that treated my dad was awesome. They were patient with our questions, while doing their very best with all of the knowledge, training, and experience the possessed. They were honest with the answers and treating dad the very best they could. I can’t brag enough about the care and compassion of the staff at the hospital. During dad’s stay we saw the doctors once or twice a day (greatly appreciating the updates), the people we saw and interacted with the most were the people checking on him (and with us) on a regular basis. Everyone was excellent, but we interacted with the daytime personnel the most as we did try to sleep every now and then. I’ll assume they were nurses, but I’m sure they have a title with more words in it. They were the ones administering the medicine, monitoring his vitals, and continually pushing buttons to stop the never ending beeping on one of his multiple IVs.
There was this one person that my family bonded with for some reason. She always had a smile and gladly answered every question from every family member. Since we weren’t all in the room at the same time, I’m sure she answered the same question multiple times. She was always professional, but not in a stuffy way. She explained things in a way the average non-medical person could understand. She was compassionate. You could just tell she had a true concern for her patients and she was good at her job. I’ll say she was even great at her job.
She was patient. Although things were crazy, hectic, and crowded, I never saw anything other than patience and understanding from her. Even when things got emotional and stressful, she was very even keeled. I know I appreciated that – in fact, I needed that and didn’t even realize at the time how important that was at the time. I’m sure once she left the room she had moments because we all did. She also demonstrated grace. I could tell that she honored or respected our presence by the way she interacted with us. She was friendly and caring instead of cold and clinical. She ministered to us – probably without realizing it – although my dad was her patient.
She was there through the rollercoaster ride of my dad’s short stay in the CCU. I could tell she loved her job. I could tell she really cared for her patients and treated everyone with respect. She tried several times to distance herself from us, in a professional way. I remember her saying once she had worked in the ICU but had to change areas because the emotional attachment to all of her patients and family was just too draining. I totally understand but there was something about her and my entire family felt a connection to her (probably against her wishes).
The last time I saw her in the room with my dad I could tell she was trying her best to hold it together as we all were. She was there with us from the beginning to the very end. I watched her as she verified his heart was no longer beating and then looked at the clock. I’ve watched enough television to know what that meant.
I don’t know why God put her there for our family, but I’m sure glad He did. She wasn’t even supposed to be working most of the days she was there but was covering shifts for other people. I don’t know if God knew we needed her or if she needed us, or if we needed each other, but He knew.
We will never forget her or the other people that treated my dad. For my family I just want to say “Thank you.” What you do makes a difference even when you do everything in your medical training and knowledge and things don’t work out. I know it has to be difficult for you, too. We appreciate your honesty while being sensitive to the situation. I have a new appreciation for your struggles and can’t imagine the emotional drain of your job day after day. Not only are you treating the patient, but helping the family through difficult times. I’m sorry if we got too attached and made your job this week or in the future more difficult. That was not our intention. But my dad was one of those people you were going to get to know because that’s who he was. You were a blessing to us and I just want you to know we will never forget you, we appreciate you and you’re in our prayers.
While this was written from one situation with one patient, I do think it should be addressed and shared with all medical professionals that deal with critical situations. Your job is demanding in many ways I probably can’t even understand and there has to be days that get you down. When you have those days, think of my family and realize the difference you make. From one family to all of you – thank you for what you do. It matters and makes a difference regardless of the outcome.