Nurses Truly Are a Special Breed

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A surgical intensive care unit is a solemn site. It can be a place of despair or of hope, of lives lost or restored. My mother’s life was restored in Good Shepherd’s SICU in 1995 after she suffered a massive heart attack while I was visiting her in the emergency room. She had gone there complaining of chest pains and nausea. As we were talking she went into cardiac arrest. Soon they were slapping her chest with shock paddles and ushering me out of the room.

Minutes later, I signed papers allowing a surgeon to operate and perform a double-bypass surgery. She bounced back from the bypass relatively quickly, but not before receiving last rites from a priest in SICU. A couple of last rites later, my mom’s faulty heart eventually killed her, but it took another 16 years. There is little doubt that if she had been at home when she had gone into cardiac arrest, our family would not have had my mom around those 16 additional years.

When my dad underwent hip surgery, already frail from a long-standing brain injury, a Lufkin surgeon skillfully planted pins in his hip. The nurses in SICU watched over him. Within days he began rehabilitation and despite long odds soon was walking again. He was with us a few more years as well, again thanks to the good care of surgeons with sure hands and the care of SICU nurses.

We spent a lot of time in SICU the past several days with my father-in-law, Harris Teel, who passed away at 3:25 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5. (If you missed last week’s piece, you can read it here: http://garyborders.com/pages/harris-teel-always-a-fighter-in-his-biggest-battle/) Once again, I am struck by the devotion and care these nurses provide to their patients. “I love what I do,” one of them said, as we thanked him for caring for Papa Teel. In one way or another, that is what each nurse has said.

I can’t begin to imagine the emotional rollercoaster those folks go through every working shift, as their patients rally and recover, or decline and crash. They are clearly emotionally invested in the patients for whom they care. You can see it in their faces, as tears trickle down their cheeks when they talk to us, the care evident in all they do.

The fact that Gail Sandidge, a fellow nurse who worked in the day-surgery center across Highway 80, died in the Nov. 26 attack certainly weighed heavily on their hearts, as it certainly does ours. But in the hours spent in the SICU, I watched these nurses care for other patients with the same devotion to duty that they provided to Papa Teel. That is what they do, each day and night.

I grew up understanding that nursing was a special profession. My mother was a registered nurse who received her training from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She didn’t work many years in hospitals because she stayed home to take care of three rambunctious boys. But she was proud to have become an R.N. Years later, here in Longview for a time, she trained young women to become nurse’s aides.

Someone the other day was joking about what a mixed blessing it was to be the child of a nurse. The good part was that if you got hurt, she could usually doctor the injury. The bad part was your mom was likely to say, “Oh, quit complaining. I’ve seen a lot worse than that!” That sounded just like my mom at times, when we came in bawling about a minor knee scrape. I know she was speaking out of love, not trying to be mean.

We came to regard the men and women caring for Papa Teel as earthly angels. That sounds melodramatic, I know, but that is how we feel about these men and women. All of us in the sizable brood that comprise the Teel clan keep repeating the same refrain: We have never met a medical staff more caring, compassionate and dedicated. For that we will forever be grateful even in the midst of this tragedy.

Finally, we are grateful for the prayers of countless numbers of you out there — friends and strangers alike. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts. Please continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead. Please pray as well for those nurses who work largely unheralded to heal those in the most dire straits.

God bless them as well.

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1 Comment

  • The Inconstant Companion « Gary Borders


    [...] (If you’re just now arriving at this story, please go to these two articles: (http://garyborders.com/pages/harris-teel-always-a-fighter-in-his-biggest-battle/ and http://garyborders.com/pages/nurses-are-a-special-breed/). [...]

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