Sometimes Even The Great Oak Tree Has to Rest

I like most women today have to wear many hats. One moment I'm the wife moments later I'm the mommy then I'm the minister or the counselor. I change yet another hat and I become the event planner or the creative writer. I become the teacher or the mentor. Sometimes I have to change hats so many times that I end up wearing several hats at the same time and do not know who I am. Or I have to allow the hats to overlap depending on the situation I'm being confronted with.

So as I write this blog today I'm wearing my ICU Charge Nurse Hat. While this hat is loving, caring, hard working, instructing and sometimes I have to give the raw naked truth thus taking away the last bit of hope that a family may have this hat has to remain strong no matter what. Sometimes this hat has to look at science over faith. When faced with this part of that nurse's hat is when the minister's hat will jump on board and the two hats may have to work together.

Last night I was faced with my hats coming together for the good of a suffering family.

I arrived to work thinking that I would be assigned my patients and just do my routine work. I don't work that much any more but I love hands on nursing and at this time still go and give as much as I can in the way of teaching and support to my unit. My greatest joy is just working one on one with patients that are critically ill. When I got there I found out that I was the charge nurse that night. I had asked to do this job only when all failed because it was a great responsiblity to monitor the entire unit and make sure that everything went well. Also because they were very short staff I had to have a patient that was mine.

During report I was told that the patient I had was dying and the family was not accepting it. That all of the doctors were frustrated because the patient should have been allowed to go in peace. After making rounds on all of the units patients giving the assignments to my ICU tech who would be working directly with me and my patient I took a deep breath and said a prayer. I was told that the daughters were upset and was finding ways to take it out on the nurses. This was considered a difficult patient because the patient was so critical and the family was hostile. Also I work the night shift so the daughters were going to stay all night and were very demanding.

I walked into the room and introduced myself. I introduced my ICU tech and let the family know just what we were going to do and how often. I also let them know that I was the charge nurse and still had my duties to do for the entire unit. However they would be able to locate me or call on me if they needed anything. One daughter was nasty. She watched everything that was being done and asked questions that she already knew the answers to. I put my minister's hat on and just ministered to these hurting daughters.

The night dragged on. The patient was in constant pain and could not let us know because she was intubated and on a ventilator. I talked to her as we did our procedures. I made sure she was medicated for pain and given medication for anxiety. The daughters could see she was in a lot of pain and I watched them just break. The oldest one who had to make the decision to make her mother a no code blue ( which meant that if she got worse we would not do anything further to keep her alive) asked to speak to me alone. I could see the pain in this ladies eyes and I had to do all I could to keep from crying myself.

I placed both hats on the nurse and the minister. The daughter and I talked and I had to be truthful with her about her mother's condition. She knew because of what the doctors had said to them. She was loosing that last bit of hope and had seem the pain that her mother was in and wondering about the quality of life. I gave her the nurse's view and then I explained to her about my other hat. This was the person that she needed and she was allowed to asks the questions that was haunting her soul and spirit. She left and got her sister and the two ladies expressed what they really felt. They knew that their mother was a fighter and a faithful believer in Christ. They too had faith and believed in divine healing.

They struggled with where their faith was at this time and if they gave into the picture the doctors painted were they giving up on God? We talked and I ministered. We prayed and I left them with what would their mother want at this point and time? What about their mother's quality of life? Also were they holding on to their mother by praying for her to stay when it was time for her to go? I told them that they had to pray for answers but to pray for peace in the right decision. I informed them that if they decided to make their mother a no code blue then it did not mean that we would no longer take care of her or keep her painfree. That we would give her care and comfort and the family could love her and be with her as the end came.

The ladies went back into their mother's room where they had to make their hard decisions. The oldest daughter came to me with a card. She asked if I would read it and when I did then I would understand her mother. That this card spoke to the core of her mother's being. I went to the nurse's lounge and sat alone to read the card. I prayed over the family and myself. I asked God to please give me insight and to be able to help them and my patient. I could not find who the author of the words on the card was but it was a Hallmark card. This is what the card said:

The Oak Tree

Amighty wind blew night and day.

It stole the oak tree's leaves away

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and stark. But still the oak tree held its ground   

While other trees fell all around.

The weary wind gave up and spoke,

How can you still be standing, Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you

Can break each branch of mine in two

Carry every leaf away

Shake my limbs and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth

Growing stronger since my birth

You'll never touch them for you see

They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn't sure

Of just how much I could endure

But now I've found, with thanks to you,

I'm stronger than I ever knew.

I read this card over twice.I then went into the bathroom and cried. How could I take these girls hope away because it was time for the strong oak tree to rest. I got myself together made floor rounds handled all of the things that I had to do. Then I went into the room. The Ladies were reading the bible and had tears in their eyes. Their mom's vital signs were worse and the only reason that she was alive was because of all that we were doing. I brought in the next dose of pain medication and I could tell by her vitals and by turning her that she was in a lot of pain. The daughters also saw what I saw. Then the mother opened her eyes and had an alert moment as I said "I'm giving you something now for pain" and I begin to just gently rub her arms and shoulders. The mom looked directly in my eyes and mouthed around her breathing tube in a way that we all could understand what she was trying to say. She looked at me as one tear came down the side of her face. She weakly raise her hand and put it on mine and then said the words "THANK YOU"!!!

At that point she closed her eyes and never opened them again. I fought to keep from crying. The girls saw it too clearly. They looked at me crying. I handed the Halmark card back to the oldest daughter and I said " Even the mighty oak has to someday take her rest".

I turned and left the room and cried like a baby. I couldn't let this lady suffer any more but could not do anything because I had the nurse's hat on, as well as the minister's hat....but it was the daughter's hat that allowed me to weep as if this was my own mother and to see her open her eyes reach up and touch me and soundlessly thank me for providing her with the comfort she needed. My fellow nurses rush to comfort their charge nurse. They always joked with me and called me "fearless" short for fearless leader. They cried with me because they knew that I was hurting and we all wanted my patient to have peace.

We pulled ourselves together and fearless charge nurse hat came on.

The daughter's called me into the room they had their peace. The patient was made a DNR. Which meant we were not going to do anything further if something happened. I encouraged them to call the rest of the family. They came in and sat in the room reading scriptures, singing her favorite hymns and just loving their mother right into heaven.

My patient went on to heaven before the end of my shift. The family was sad for the lost but at peace for the choice. They hugged me and gave me the Oak Tree Card.

The unit was at peace and when we left for home that morning I knew that all was well and I had a void. My body, mind and soul was beat. I dragged into the house and just felt numb. My husband went to church and I did not have anything left in me to push me there.

Then ladies I received wonderful comments from my She Writes family that said so many nice things about what I had written. You don't know how this fed my aching heart and gave me comfort. I slept on top of my lap top and was at peace. I woke up refreshed and gratiful for all of the many hats that I wear but most of all for all of my new found friends.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 1-2

Sometimes Even The Mighty Oak Has To Take A Rest!!!




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