Dear Senator Walsh,
I don’t tend to get involved in politics. In fact, I avoid them like the plague because I hate everything politics has become. I couldn’t avoid this. Your comment about nurses has made it difficult for me to not get involved in this conversation.
I’m not really sure how you could make such an ignorant statement about such a selfless group of people, but that’s not for me to judge. I sincerely hope it was a lack of experience with the medical industry that lead you to make that statement.
Maybe you need a bit more education on what it is that nurses actually do.
I probably didn’t realize the extent of a nurse’s work until they were the ones holding my family in our darkest moments. I didn’t realize exactly how much they do until then, but I certainly never thought nurses sat around and played cards.
Over the last 5 years, I have had the unfortunate blessing of learning a lot about the nursing profession. It was unfortunate because of our circumstances. It was a blessing because some of the most amazing people entered my life as a result.
Come to think of it, as I got to know those nurses over the years, I’ve never seen any of them play so much as one game of cards.
Nurses don’t play cards all day.
Play peek-a-boo to take a baby’s mind off the pain or blocks with a restless toddler? Maybe.
Work double shifts? Maybe.
Run marathons in honor or memory of their patients? Maybe.
But sitting around a table just playing cards? Never.
The nurses certainly weren’t playing cards when we came crashing through a pediatric emergency room with our severely ill infant. Instead, they were wiping our tears, chasing down a priest, bringing us blankets and water. They were helping us process the bad news we just received. They were helping us build our strength as we grasped the idea that our 5-month-old son had a life-threatening brain tumor. But they weren’t playing cards.
Once they calmed us down, the nurses really got to work.
They were running tests, placing IVs, coordinating teams, checking vitals, and administering meds while our baby lay lifeless in our arms on a stretcher in a trauma room. They were closely monitoring our son’s declining health while simultaneously reassuring us that they would do everything they could to save our baby.
The nurses weren’t just doing everything they could to save our son, but they were also finding ways to give our family hope and help us through this. They were reassuring us in some very unsure moments. We knew we were in the right place because of the nurses who stood at our side.
They had no time to be dealt into the card game you were referencing. They were already knee deep in a game of life or death, fighting hard to avoid a game over.
Nurses don’t play cards. At least they weren’t playing cards when our son came out of recovery after a 9-hour emergency brain surgery either. They hadn’t just put their hand down on that big round table you may have imagined as they welcomed him to the 7th floor. They weren’t pausing their game for a second, hoping to pick it up later.
Instead, they were reviewing surgical notes, catching up with surgeons, double checking equipment, and anxiously awaited our son’s arrival on the PICU floor. The nurses were checking monitors and organizing what seemed to be hundreds of wire leads that would be placed all over the tiny body they vowed to carefully care for when the transport team wheeled our son into that room.
They were working hard to create a safe environment for their incoming pediatric patient. They were prepping an intensive care unit room for our son. They were creating a comfortable place for our family in the most uncomfortable circumstances. They were living up to the promise they made to us to do their best to save our son.
The nurses weren’t playing cards as my baby woke up from anesthesia either. They were carefully measuring out life-saving medications. They were checking and double checking doses and labels just to be sure they had it right. They were hooking up oxygen tanks and monitoring a respirator. They were meticulously stabilizing drains and tubes that lead from a complicated piece of machinery to the inside of our son’s head. They were obsessively, yet confidently, rechecking the drains and tubes that could drastically affect his health if they were as little as a millimeter off.
The nurses were cleaning and dressing a deep incision held together by 77 staples. They were lovingly caring for a once perfect infant’s head where surgical steel took the place of the soft baby hair that once lay here. They weren’t just doing their job amidst pressure, panic, and time limits. They were making sure everything was as it should be, while also teaching us we needed to know along the way.
The nurses definitely never got the chance to crack open that brand new deck of Bicycle playing cards you’ve had me imagining these last few days, Senator Walsh. They didn’t get a chance to open up that deck of cards over the next 14 days we spent with them either.
But, they were just way too busy checking blood clots, ordering ultrasounds, and calling for consults.
The nurses were sprinting across hallways, responding to the sound of alarms as our son screamed in pain. They were helping him breathe as his chubby baby cheeks changed different shades of red, purple, and blue. They were regulating his heart rate as it dropped over and over again. They were giving him every resource they had to help him get through those painful post-op days.
Cards weren’t what the nurses were shuffling during the shifts I spent with them.
Instead, they carefully shuffled their own tired bodies around a too tight PICU room. Over wires, under machines, around his family, and alongside his doctors, the nurses worked as a team to deliver the absolute best care to our baby boy.
The nurses were too busy saving our baby’s life to jump into any card game. They were helping him beat the odds that were stacked up against him. They were giving him a fighting chance to survive. They were giving us a chance to go home…as we had come in. The nurses played one of the biggest roles in keeping us as a family.
Nurses don’t play cards. Nurses were too busy being heroes to play cards. They were comforting our son when we didn’t know how. They were teaching us new skills we never wanted to learn. They were creatively shifting wires and drains and equipment and incisions so we could hold our baby boy. They were creating homemade concoctions to treat the worst skin rash you have ever seen when no other prescription drug worked.
The nurses were making miracles with their bare hands. I saw them with my own two eyes.
They weren’t holding their ground with a killer poker hand in a game of cards like you said they were.
Maybe you never saw a nurse at work. Maybe you’ve never been that close to the front line of medical care. Maybe you never needed a nurse.
But, I have.
So, let me educate you on what it is that nurses really do. Let me enlighten you on the nursing profession, while you sit amongst other politicians, discussing the idea that nurses sit around playing Gin Rummy or Old Maid or Go Fish.
Nurses don’t play cards. Nurses care for people at the lowest points in their life.
They show up for their patients no matter what.
Nurses don’t care who you are or where you’re from. They don’t care if you’re covered by insurance or if you have enough money in the bank to pay your medical bills. They’re not worried about your ethnicity, your religious background, your highest level of education, or your political beliefs.
Nurses don’t care whether you’re a good person or a bad person.
Heck, nurses don’t even care if they like you or not. They just care…regardless.
Nurses care about you.
The mom. The dad.
The brother. The sister.
The entire support system of the patient lying on that hospital bed
Nurses care about all of you.
They’ll change their shifts just to be with you. They’ll stay late to let you finish that meaningless story you started. They’ll forget about punching a clock when things take a drastic turn for the worse just as their shift is about to end.
Nurses care about giving you what you need to improve your health. They do their best to send you off in a better condition than they met you in.
Nurses care about giving your family the chance to love you one more time.
Even if all they can give you is one more minute with the person you love.
Nurses care enough to do everything in their power to make that happen.
We spent what seemed like forever in a pediatric intensive care unit almost 5 years ago. As we fought to stay awake, hold back our tears. As we shook with worry, were consumed by uncertainty and what if’s. As we struggled…
The nurses became part of our family.
They listened to us vent about our biggest fears in a pitch black room at 3 in the morning. They stayed a few more minutes, after an already too long shift, to go over every minor detail about our son with the next shift of nurses. They hopped off their dinner break to be an extra set of hands. They put off that trip to the bathroom they had already set out for, (even though they desperately needed to go) so they could answer our page.
The nurses carried our entire family through the worst time of our lives.
They kept us safe.
All of us.
The surgeons removed our son’s tumor. This ultimately saved his life, but the nurses made sure he stayed alive. They kept saving his life…over and over again…until he was ready to come home to us. They risked their job to stand up to doctors they knew were wrong. They held back tears as they valiantly fought off their superiors.
Because the nurses KNEW our son more than anyone else did. They knew our son even more than his own two parents did during this time.
They showed up with the surprising strength of a powerlifter to move a panicked Dad out of the way and get to their patient. They held a sobbing mother across the hall as she just found out she lost her baby.
They stopped at nothing to do their job.
All of it.
And they didn’t hesitate for one minute to go beyond. Even though what was required of them was already too much for one person to handle. They did more.
The nurses were there.
For what seemed like an eternity in the hospital, the nurses were there every time we needed them.
They were always there.
And they’ve been there since.
They’ve celebrated with us during the most important milestones of survivorship. They’ve welcomed us back with loving arms during unfortunate repeat hospital stays. Their familiar faces calmed our anxiety as we found them waiting for us upstairs. Their faces gave us the strength to keep fighting, the hope to stay strong, and the faith to get through it all again.
Our nurses have always been a gentle reminder that we can and we will handle anything that comes our way.
They remind us that we’ll do it together…just as we did before.
They showed us anything is possible.
When I first met these nurses, a game of cards wasn’t what came to my mind.
But not cards.
Nurses don’t play cards. Instead, they heroically show up for people they don’t even know
…complete strangers. They leave their families and show up for complete strangers.
Nurses show up no matter what because we desperately need them during life’s most medically challenging times.
I hope you never face a situation where you have to learn as much about nurses as we know.
But, if you do, I urge you to pay attention.
Pay close attention. It’s then that you’ll realize that nurses are also teachers.
In the most horrible experiences of your life, nurses will teach you that there is still goodness in this world. They’ll change your mindset. They’ll show you how to live in the moment.
Nurses will remind you that everything can change in an instant.
They’ll teach you about yourself, about strength, about resilience.
Nurses will teach you that you can believe in miracles.
No matter what happens when you leave that overwhelmingly scary place
…when you walk through those hospital doors and head back to everyday life
…nurses will have taught you one of the greatest lessons of grace and humility. They’ll leave you wondering how you could ever repay them for what they did for you in that hospital room.
Nurses will teach you about life.
If you’re lucky, like me, nurses will teach you things that change your life.
Nurses don’t play cards.
They deliver priceless gifts to patients…deserving patients and undeserving patients…
That’s not just something politicians should know, it’s something they should share.
Nurses are saints, not card sharks.
The only card dealing nurses are doing is when they’re dealing you back into life after you folded the last hand. And if you’re lucky enough to get a nurse who helps deal you back in, you’re lucky enough.
Nurses deserve all our love and respect every day, not just on the days that some out of line politician makes an ignorant statement that goes viral.
Above all else, nurses deserve appreciation. But, it’s the nurses that don’t expect so much as a thank you.
It’s the nurses who are thankful for their thankless careers. And, you Senator Walsh, you’ve reminded me to thank God for that!
The Grateful Mother of a Medically Complex Kid with the Most Amazing Nurses