Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ode to Debbie the Chemo Nurse

Not an ode really, but you know where I am going with this. You hear me rant a lot, and it is because there are lots of ways to streamline and improve the medical system. There are always ways to improve every system, it is inherent in having a system really. You need a system to start moving forward, which in and of itself is a Great Thing, and then you need to learn as you go and keep refining. I am built for refining things (another way to describe this, and many a former boyfriend has, is that I easily see what is wrong, not necessarily so good for a relationship, but great for a system), which is why I am so good at ranting. But today I want to highlight a great thing in the form of a great person, and know that when I am doing that, it is really where I am pointing the system. To it’s own greatness.

Debbie administered my chemotherapy for round 1 and 2 (of 4, she was off with an injured arm for my 3rd round and on her honeymoon for my 4th round, and I know this because, trust me, I asked for her personally). Simply put, she is an angel disguised as a nurse. I start crying just thinking about how loving and caring and totally present she was with us (that would be me and my two support people). She didn’t miss a beat, she really heard me and she did what she could to alleviate my fear and pain. Let me slow that one down because it is so important: she didn’t just try to alleviate my pain, but also my FEAR, she tried to alleviate my mental pain (that being fear), she was concerned with my whole well being, all of me. There is the ticket right there, me thinks! And she did it without condescension or coercion. Her graciousness still astounds me. Now, yes, it is her job to take care of me, but it is also her task to “get the job done”. But the way she did that was what made her so different. She didn’t lose me in the process of getting the job done, she left me intact. In actual fact she made me more whole than when I arrived. Surely that is the real job. If I can hone in on what it was that was exceptionally special (which is hard, since so much is so great about her), it was the being present, totally present. She didn’t try to make me not have feelings, rather she honoured them. She didn’t try to get me to do things at any pace other than my own, she trusted my schedule, she trusted me, she knew we would get the job done. She was gentle, and respectful. She was helpful and caring.

And she remembered. During the second round (and I wasn’t scheduled to have her for my second round but after they gave me a nurse in training who wasn’t very good at administering needles, and was feeling uncertain and insecure, and so wasn’t listening to me, and had called in two other nurses to deliberate about whether or not they should put in a permanent needle line into my chest, “hello is anyone going to consult with me”, to the point that I was standing up on my chair, voice raised, panicking and declaring that I was now done with chemotherapy. It was at this point that they offered me a later appointment with Debbie, and I, not surprisingly, accepted), when I unwittingly (in fact, there were no wits anywhere near me since I had to take a double dose of Xanax for my second attempt at chemo) again mentioned that I liked the colour of her thing-y that wraps around my arm to redirect the blood flow to the lower half of my arm (it was a beautiful red and hot pink and orange), and she said, “yes, it is the colours of the goddess”, and I knew we had covered this ground before. And I felt precious and important to her, and yes, loved. She remembered and I felt held and safe and like everything was going to be ok. I could relax a bit (and relaxing really helps in those sorts of situations) and let her do her job.

I have probably only spent a total of 4 hours in her presence but those 4 hours changed my life (I guess in many ways, like, you know, having one). Those 4 hours had me know that human life is precious. That people who don’t even know you can care for you and take care of you, in a way that has nothing to do with any money exchanged. That you can trust strangers. That God is alive and well and living inside the human heart.

I don’t know the magic formula that make Debbie so great (that said I could break it down and figure out the key things, I suppose, and it may well be worth it, in case I can take this show on the road and teach the emotional intelligence stuff to the health care providers that might be missing it), and maybe it was chemistry between us and different nurses work better for different patients, but she saved my life that day, both those days, and she made my life worth living, because I learned that there is a heart in the medical system and that it can work. In fact it can work wonders. But not without the people. I couldn’t work if it was just machines and just chemicals and just scalpels. God needs to have a face.


At 7:25 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's to the Signy and Debbie combination, which helped bring our Signy here to us today. Yay! The colour of the goddess ... like the colour in your web site? Yeah! It is really great to read a power positive vibe coming from Team Signy today. Yahoo!

At 9:24 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Yes, yes, exactly those colours, fun and vibrant and exciting. And it does so feel good to be sitting in the fun and vibrant and exciting of life!!!

See you soon!!!


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