Thursday, August 22, 2013

See them for who they are and not for the illnesses they have

Jane Carmody is Chief Nursing Officer at Alegent Creighton Health in Omaha, Nebraska.  She publishes a regular note from the CNO for the hospital staff.  This personal account moved me, and I reprint it with her permission.

Courage. My sister is about nine years older than me. For about ten years she has battled carcinoid tumors, and it is starting to take its toll.  I visit her about every weekend I can; she lives in Des Moines. I have to say how I admire her courage. She is a nurse and worked for years at her small town clinic with the physician and the nurse practitioner. They “huddled” every day (although they did not call it that) and discussed the patients for the day and who would need follow up, who would be called and who would come in for a “RN check.”  She was well known in the town. 

She retired a couple of years ago and tells me now, “Never retire…stay working as long as you can…it is hard for a nurse to retire…the work is too exciting and interesting…”.   I know she looks at me and wishes she were in good health, and I so I am careful not to complain about work schedules or work pressures because she would love to have them.

Over the past few months, she has progressed to a cane and soon I am sure a wheel chair. She hated the idea of a cane at first, so I took her an umbrella and bought cane tips. That way she looked stylish. She progressed to a 4-prong cane and has difficulty getting around. 

On a recent visit we took her shopping. My sister loves shoes, purses and hair and skin products…and certainly not the inexpensive ones. We thought about taking her to the mall so she could shop at Von Maur (her favorite) and yet the mall only provides wheel chairs…she hates that. So, we took her to Target: They have motorized carts and she had so much fun. Gave her freedom to shop and to knock down displays…she said she was so “embarrassed” to have to use the riding carts, but she had so much fun. She has lost most of her hair and so she wears lots of hats and so we bought matching ones.

I tell this story because she is courageously and gracefully managing. It reminds me of how you all experience the courage of your own patients and families and how we have to remind ourselves to see them for who they are and not for the illnesses they have. Please pray with me for my sister and all those suffering. She starts another round of radiation this week because the tumors grow more on her spine.  This further weakens her status and yet not her hope, humor and courage. 

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