Have You Thanked a Nurse Today?

With my eyes wide open, I laid on the ground next to my grandma’s bed in the guest room when she came for a visit at age 93 (she is now 101 years old). During her visit to Arizona (from Minnesota) she contracted a bad cough. It progressively got worse during the night and so I decided to sleep next to her bed in case things got worse. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was so worried about her. Periodically, she would wake and I would get up, feel her head, re-fill her water, bring more tissue and rub her head to comfort her. In the morning, my anxiety was at its highest, so we took her to the hospital where she was admitted for pneumonia. She stayed for a little over a week in that hospital which meant so did I. My grandmother is my best friend, my support, and my comfort and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her. Grandma is a retired nurse. Quite ironically, she enjoyed her stay in the hospital because it felt like home to her. Not only did she enjoy it, she wanted to teach me the art of nursing. When she needed something, I would say, “I will get the nurse,” and she would say, “No, I will tell you how to do it and you can help me.” The thing about grandma is that you don’t argue with her. If she wants you to be her personal nurse, the only answer she will accept is “yes.” For that week, I did things I never imagined myself doing for a person. It’s a good thing I love her beyond measure because it was hard and often gross work! It gave me a new appreciation for nurses and made me fully understand it is a special calling, not one given to me!

A picture of Grandma and me this past July when I visited Minnesota.

This past Wednesday, I had the incredible privilege of speaking to 200 nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital Neurological Nursing Symposium where I was asked to share my survival story. I arrived early to hear Dr. David Levy, a neurosurgeon, speak about his new book Gray Matter. I was intrigued the night before when I had a conversation with him at a dinner I attended. His book entails stories about how he began to pray with his patients and staff and the way it affected how he practiced medicine. I came in quietly as he took the stage when someone whispered my name. I looked over at this woman and she said, “I saw you were speaking here today, and wanted to let you know I was your nurse during your amniotic fluid embolism.” In shock, I said, “What?” and I pulled her outside so she could tell me more. Then another nurse followed us out. Both of these nurses shared how they assisted in my survival. I was truly blown away and was holding back tears since I was about to give my talk in 20 minutes. What they shared was amazing! They told me how bad things really were and how they did not think I would be able to survive all that happened. They repeated what others have told me before, that I was “deader than dead.” And that everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I interjected, “Well everything that had to go right, went right.” They shared how this experience changed them and strengthened them in the trials they were having in their own lives. I shared about the impact it has had on me and how grateful I am that God used me in this way even though it caused me so much suffering.

It was a truly incredible and unexpected encounter! I wish I could have recorded the entire thing. The story they tell is far more captivating than the story I tell since they were first hand witnesses. I felt so unprepared! How do you thank someone who saved your life? I did give them each a book as a small token and wished I could give them something huge that could truly show them my gratitude. I know it is their job, but no matter, how do you thank someone who helped save your life? I was overwhelmed at the thought!

I missed Dr. Levy’s entire talk but was grateful for the encounter I had with these nurses. So, I bought his book and am equally captivated by it and the courage he has displayed in asking his patients to pray with him before surgeries regardless of how others may perceive him in the medical field. I was excited to take the stage after him knowing as a patient, I would be backing up his theory of how praying with patients can often give greater outcomes.

I began my talk and shared my story to this group of medical professionals. I heard gasps throughout as they know more than any how the things I went through were incredibly traumatic and unpredictable.

I ended my talk speaking about the incredible care I received from my doctors and nurses and how their support and prayers sustained my family during some dark hours.  And, how when I woke up to find out about how they cared for not just me, but my family as well,  it made me want to survive and work hard to get better so they knew their efforts were not in vain.

To conclude my talk, I read a portion from my book, The Day I Died, Finding Hope in Suffering where I speak about meeting those doctors and nurses that saved my life. I was able to meet each person, look them in the eyes, shake their hands and say, “Thank you.” I looked out at this audience and said, “On behalf of patients you have had who may have never returned to thank you, I thank you for your service. What you do matters! Nursing isn’t just a job; it is something I know you all pour your heart and souls into as well. Thank you!”

Afterward many nurses came up and said that it is having patients return to say “thank you” and seeing patients return happy and well that makes their jobs worth it. I could tell that those times aren’t as often as they should be. I am sure many look at what doctors and nurses to as a job, and that they shouldn’t need to be thanked, but the medical profession is not just a job. Every night those people go home and their minds are still reeling about their patients and the patients’ families. They are always wondering if they did everything right or if they could have done something better. Every day, many people’s lives are in their hands. That is more than a job! It is a calling and a huge responsibility, one as I mentioned I learned in caring for my grandmother, is more than I could handle.

Let’s take a moment to write a note of thanks to a special nurse or doctor who has assisted in our care or the care of a family member. Let’s let our thanks be heard publicly! Share your note in the comments and I will post them. Then we will pray for the nurses who people post comments about that the Holy Spirit will work through them and that they will feel joy and appreciation for doing the amazing work they do each day. Feel free to send your nurse a note to look on the blog when your comment is posted! If you do not know their name or names, just write a note letting us know why you appreciate them.

I can’t wait to hear your stories of gratitude!

PS:  If you know someone in need of encouragement or hope, please recommend my book, The Day I Died: Finding Hope in Suffering. Check this link for where to purchase it.

I will share a prayer for the nurses who assisted in my care.

I want to thank all the nurses who took part in my survival and the survival of my beautiful daughter two and a half years ago. I especially pray for the nurse who revealed to me once that she felt shame that she was giving me care when she kept saying in her mind, “There is no chance for this woman to live; she is too dead.” I thank her for continuing to do what doctors asked her to do even with those feelings. I pray she no longer feels shame or sadness because she did her job regardless of her feelings and that saved my life! I am eternally grateful that no one gave up even when they thought there was a slim chance for my survival! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

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5 comments

  1. Wendy Wood · · Reply

    To my precious daughter, Meghan who was with Melanie the day she gave birth to her baby girl. Meghan is not only an amazing daughter but the BEST nurse ever! Her genuine love, concern and commitment makes her a blessing to the nursing profession. Meghan thank you and I love you dearly.
    Your proud mommy
    xxoo

  2. marsha obrien · · Reply

    Melanie,        What a beautiful tribute to nurses.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Our Lord created nurses to nurse the sick to the best of our ability., and how true it is, nursing is not just a job or paycheck for the hours of study we have completed.  I want to be there for those who are most vulnerable; that they can trust I have their interest number 1 on my list.  In the 29 years I have been a nurse; I have to admit that every one of those years have been rewarding for me.  I was there when someone needed help and had many questions.  Wish that I could have been there at the symposium to hear your talk.  We all are called upon with our God given talents to serve each other.  He is so wonderful and awesome knowing what we all would be doing in his name.      It may have been challenging taking care of your grandma; but you gave her peace, and much love; no one else could give-only you!   God Bless You,   Marsha O’Brien LPN 

  3. Rosie Castellanos · · Reply

    I am so thankful for the dedicated doctors and nurses that give compassionate care for those whose life is literally in their hands. In 2006 my son fell into a diabetic coma while on a road trip – 100 miles from nearest hospital. His dad raced to the hospital while his sister tended to him. About 10 min. away, he stopped breathing. His sister did CPR and he started breathing again. When they got to the hospital his heart stopped beating.
    He was dead on the table for 12 minutes. At 10 minutes, the likelihood of brain damage is a given. They were going to stop paddling him, but the doctor later told us, she said a prayer before shocking him one last time. His heart started beating again. His journey to recovery was long and full of suffering, but all along the way there were outstanding doctors and nurses that helped make our journey bearable. By the grace of God, our miraculous son will be graduating from college in May! Praise God.

    You can hear his story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsEzMcYJJHM&feature=g-like

  4. Rayna, RN · · Reply

    Melanie,
    I wished I had been able to go to the nursing symposium, I really wanted to hear you speak! I am a cardiac ICU nurse. I absolutely love my job, its stressful at time but so rewarding especially when the most bleakest outcomes turn positive. I took care of a young patient who like you at one point was told to his family was not going to make it and pretty much should look at possible organ donation. Well, we prevailed in our care and the patient through I truly believe with prayers was a miracle and pulled through and three months later came to visit us! Its stories like that one and yours that we as nurses can go home and really feel we make a difference in peoples lives. I also want to include doctors as well in everyone`s prayers, since I work with some amazing ones! Thank you for your beautiful words!

  5. I am a very open person, so what I appreciated most after a car accident in September was the incredible warmth and undying cheerfulness of the doctors and nurses. In particular, two resident doctors – Dr. Olmsted and Lauren – were immensely kind and allowed me to feel safe in their care after a traumatic experience that left me with alot of sadness. I know the doctors’ and nurses’ shifts were long, but they gave their best in caring for their patients. I will always be grateful for their treatment and for their extraordinary kindness. I pray for them whenever I think of them, that God’s light will shine on their paths.

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