‘UNYIELDINGLY HUMAN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY JOEL CARTNER
NOT WITHOUT MY NURSES
WHERE CLINICAL CARE MEETS HUMAN HOPE
I would be absolutely nowhere without nurses. This isn’t hyperbole; I’ve been in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices my entire life. Not my family or myself could have survived the last 26 years without them. Nurses interact with a patient and their circle more than anyone else on a care team.
Nurses are, more often than not, the first and last people we interact with in some of the most stressful situations many of us will find ourselves in. These are just a few stories of what nurses have done for me:
JoAnn and Cindy
I was born at 25 weeks. My chances for survival were not good, and I spent my first months on this earth in the NICU. It is there that my family and I met two extraordinary women JoAnn and Cindy. Not only were they incredibly an incredibly comforting presence for my family during an extremely difficult time, but they also did what they could to lighten the mood. No one can seem to remember who now, but either JoAnn or Cindy liked me better in blue, and the other one liked me in red. Since one of them was on during the day and the other at night, they would change me into the outfit of their choice as they rotated. Then one day, Cindy got an idea. I had a stuffed cow. Said cow was as big if not bigger than I was at that point, and Cindy decided to play a trick on JoAnn by replacing me with the cow and taking me, dressed in Cindy’s color of choice, into the bathroom. Enter JoAnn with a cow in the incubator and Cindy hiding in the bathroom with me in the “wrong” color. We laugh about that story to this day. JoAnn and Cindy took a fraught situation with worry and stress and brought light and love to the situation and for years after.
Between the surgery in 2004 and my early high school years, I, largely, took a break from Botox. Then, I had a bad fall, among other things, and my Orthopedic appointments went from mid-level stressful back to the high-stress; every appointment is an inflection point affair they used to be, and we tossed Botox back on top of it. Enter Brandy. Brandy had a singular ability to cut right through that stress. She’d talk to me about school and make me laugh (not an easy thing to do when I’m stressed). Particularly, when she saw I was reading in the waiting room, she’d come over, sit down next to me, and at least let me finish my page. Sometimes she’d even let me sneak to the end of a chapter if we had time. Those little moments of levity made all the difference for me.
More recently, as I’ve gotten older and had to take charge of my healthcare, I’ve gotten a firsthand look at the wonders of nurses’ ability to guide patients through the complexities of healthcare. Now that I have to worry about my own insurance and how treatment gets billed and scheduling treatment within appropriate windows and all of that insanity, I’ve found myself talking to nurses with even more frequency. My Orthopedic’s nurse, in particular, is a master at reminding me that I’m still a human in a sea of numbers. She sees me two times a year, sometimes more, and talks to me on the phone about billing at least that often. Every time we talk, I’m still a human, and no matter how many questions I have, she grounds me. 77 AWARENOW / THE MAYDAY EDITION