July 22, 2015
I never stepped foot inside a hospital until nursing school. No broken bones, no surgery, no severe illness. I’ve been one of the very few fortunate. Having health is one of the most important possessions in life.
Despite so little experience as a patient myself, I always try to be empathetic with my patients and their families. I have recently had the opportunity to see the hospital from the point of view of patient and family. My baby sister gave birth to a little girl.
My sister had her scheduled weekly OB check up with Dr. John Meyers at OB-GYN Health Center in Daytona Beach. He is one of a growing group of doctors in the area that supports VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I recommended him to my sister in large part because she wanted to try for a VBAC, but also because I had been to many of Dr. Meyers’ deliveries as a graduate nurse working at Halifax Medical Center. He was always calm, confident, and had the best bedside manner.
What we thought would be a routine check up quickly turned into high blood pressure, protein in the urine, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets resulted in a repeat C-section (caesarean). It is called preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome (for the nonmedical peeps), a dangerous myriad of symptoms that develop in some women under pregnancy where the only treatment is delivery of the baby.
This was sadly my sister’s second go around with preeclampsia and HELLP that unfortunately took precedence over having the natural birth she had wished for. Ultimately the most important thing was that the outcome for both her and her baby was positive.
From the moment we walked in the door to the labor and delivery unit, I knew my sister was safe and well cared for. Maybe it was in large part that I had walked these halls hundreds of times as a new nurse years ago. I knew their routines. I still recognized so many faces. This was my “home” hospital. The charge nurse (my first preceptor as a new grad), Nancy, was the first to come into the room. She was exactly as I remembered her, outgoing and funny, which brought light to a heavy feeling in the room. She identified herself, explained that Mandy’s nurse would be in shortly, and that she would help her get settled in the meantime. The little things.
Ilze, Mandy’s labor nurse, soon joined the birthday party. We were lucky to get two super nurses for the price of one as Ilze was orienting Cathy, an equally experienced nurse. They explained in detail what would happen with regard to preparation for the caesarean. They both had a calm demeanor that reflected years of experience. Calm was just what was needed as my sister anxiously contemplated her second C-section. The little things.
I often refer to “the little things” in my writing that I think matter most to a patient. They don’t remember if we gave their antibiotic on time, that we charted their daily progress. What they remember are the little things. Mandy, my sister, remembers that the anaesthesiologist in the O.R. (sensing she was nervous) encouraged my brother in law to take her hand as they started the C Section. My brother in law, Sean, remembers that Sheila (my super neonatal nurse friend) took the time to allow him to cut what remained of the umbilical cord. Sheila brought a bit of normalcy in the otherwise sterile, cold, frightening, and, unfamiliar environment that is an operating room. Mandy remembers that Sheila then placed her little girl directly skin to skin in the operating room while Dr. Meyers was still working on her. I remember receiving updates from Nancy and a respiratory therapist outside the O.R. while we (the family) paced the halls in anticipation. The little things.
As part of the treatment of preeclampsia, my sister was administered an intravenous drip of Magnesium Sulfate for approximately 20 hours after delivery. It is a life saving drug that prevents seizures in the preeclamptic patient, but has some terrible side effects of which my sister experienced flushing, confusion, visual disturbances, and a “strange twilight” feeling. She was restricted to her hospital bed for the duration of treatment (20 hours). Can you imagine the challenge of trying to care for, feed, and, nurture your newborn while heavily drugged and bed bound? It is no easy recovery! My sister is my hero ❤
Her recovery and postpartum nurses made her as comfortable as possible. Joy, the night shift nurse, checked Mandy’s reflexes hourly as required when a patient is being treated with Magnesium Sulfate. She made sure that Mandy was pain free, had plenty of clear liquids to her liking, and that she was beginning to regain feeling in her legs post spinal. I stayed the first two nights helping out and recall hearing Joy’s sweet, nurturing voice in the quiet of the night checking in on us. The little things.
It was with the help of this group of amazing nurses, Dr. Meyers, and the surgical team that my sister’s delivery and postpartum period in the hospital (though physically difficult) will be remembered positively. I am proud to say that I trained as a graduate nurse here and still carry with me some of the most fundamental and essential skills of nursing that I learned here. The little things. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart ❤