Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Be grateful for healthy children.

My intention was for my next blog to be part two of my New Orleans recap and to bring you more tales of eating my weight in po-boys happiness and to-go drinks. However I must interrupt for a slightly more sobering topic. I'm in my pediatrics rotation this semester, which I've looked forward to since I started nursing school. I work with kids in my job, and I love it. I love to be silly and the way a coloring book or a stuffed animal can fix tears. I love being able to call patients "sweetie" or "buddy" without sounding patronizing or disrespectful. I really enjoy working with kids.

Today's clinical was different. For the next few weeks we will be at a long term children's facility. In orientation it was described as a "nursing home for children." Which is a phrase that manages to be both accurate and absolutely heart breaking.

I can't go into too much details because I'm exhausted and terrified of violating HIPPA (first goal of nursing school, get through it without breaking privacy laws). I just felt like I needed to write something. Today was hard. These aren't kids in the hospital to get tonsils out or to have tubes put in their ears. These aren't kids with the flu who will get better with some rest and fluids. Most of the kids in this place have been there for years. They will be there for years, until they turn 21 and move on to an adult chronic care facility. Most of the kids can't breathe on their own, or talk, or move without assistance.

The work they do in this place is tremendous. It is humbling to watch and I am so thankful this facility exists. And yet I struggled today. I struggled while I was with my patient, because as much as I wanted to be in the moment and be bright and optimistic, as much I  know that a nurse should never pity a patient or feel "sorry" for them, despite all that I was staggered by the reality of this child's life. It is a reality that I do not understand, that I can not ever understand. And while I am sure that reality contains a multitude of things I am unaware of, a world of joy and peace and purpose that only that child truly knows, it's hard not to think of all those things not part of that reality.

It's hard not to think of never's and can'ts And I'm not talking never going to Disney World or never having a wedding. I'm talking about the fact that many of these kids will never walk, or eat. They'll never sing or speak, never dance or run. When the world is right side up, you look at children and see possibility. I found myself in a mixed up world today, a world of children with so much possibility robbed of them.

Please do not misunderstand me. These children are beautiful. Their lives have meaning. They are in a place with heroic caregivers (heroic in every sense of the word). I hate to sound like I am writing them off, because I would never do that. I root for them. I root for their lives, for those moments of happiness and silliness and love they all must still have, even if it's different than the way we experience those things.

I don't pity them. They deserve so much more than that. But I do grieve for all of their never's and can'ts. I'm not sure you could be a human and not. 

And I'm writing all of this not to be uber depressing or wallow in my sadness. I'm writing to process, but also to state, with total and utter conviction, that you, whoever you are reading this, please, please, please, be grateful. Be grateful for your childhood, for your skinned knees and sun burns, for the taste of macaroni and cheese and the feel of grass under your bare feet. Be overcome by it. Be humbled by your health and by any healthy child you know. 

I think of my niece and nephew, who are so perfect, who breathe and laugh and wiggle. I think of them and I ache with gratitude.

We all have problems. We all have crappy things happen to us. But we're so lucky. And I guess that's the point of this disjointed blog, to say that for tonight at least I have things in persepctive. For tonight I am floored by the blessing that is my life and the life of so many I hold dear. So hug your babies or your nephew or your cousins. Appreciate the miracle that is a healthy human child. And keep those other children in your thoughts and prayers, those beautiful, brave kids I saw today. 

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