Florence Nightingale. Courtesy of Asli Kutluay at aslikutluay.com
I was seven years old when I entered a hospital for the first time. Not as a patient, but as a visitor. My older brother had been newly diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), and I begged my mother to bring me to visit him. My brother and I were pretty close and only two years apart. I remember walking through the large, automatic, sliding glass doors into the lobby. I ran to push the button for the elevator, and during that short wait I was struck by two things: hospital smell and medical personnel. Unless you’re olfactory challenged, the smell of a hospital is an unforgettable experience for all those who cross that threshold. But more importantly, it was the people I noticed who were about to change the course of my life. Everybody was moving so fast: the nurses, the doctors, people wearing I.D. badges. I was fascinated. I knew at that very moment I wanted to be a part of that world. I wanted to know what was going on behind those closed doors, and inside the minds of the people who chose to work there.
This was such a strong pull for me as a child that I went around telling anyone who would listen that I was going to become a doctor, a neurosurgeon to be exact. I promised my beloved Aunt that I would buy her a mansion right next to mine. I even went so far as to study the brain using our encyclopedia, as these were the pre-internet years.
Unfortunately, in high school, my S.A.T. scores weren’t up to par for medical school. Despite some dissuasion from my guidance counselor, I decided to enter the field of nursing. I began taking nursing courses along with my required high school classes. After graduation, went on to obtain my Registered Nurse license and start my nursing career.
It’s funny how life takes you in certain directions. Had my brother never gotten ill, I’m not sure I would have ever had another reason to enter a hospital at that time, and I may have spent the last twenty years in a career that would have actually paid me enough money to buy those mansions.
No amount of money, though, could have saved my Aunt; while I was attending nursing school, she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I remember visiting her in one of the big city hospitals I eventually came to work in. I was still naive, and so unprepared for the devastating effects of cancer.
But it was then that I understood how my presence at the bedside could be comforting to someone in their last days. There was going to be no glory, no fancy title, and little compensation compared to the job at hand. What I was going to lack in fame and fortune, I was about to make up in a lifetime of experiences: good and bad, happy and sad, fun and frustrating and every other emotion you can possibly think of. I was also about to meet some of the best people I know along the way.
In a place that can seem so dark to so many, I am constantly enlightened and inspired by what I see and do in the hospital. I hope to share these experiences throughout this blog that will make you laugh, cry and understand a litter better not only the life of this one nurse, but also how these nursing stories reveal how we all connect to one another.