She was the first nurse we had the first time my former preemie Madeline was readmitted to the hospital after her NICU stay. She was the nurse closest in age to me, so I felt comfortable with her. She had a big easy smile, a quick laugh, and a gentle touch. Maddie loved her, and I did too.
The second and third times Maddie was admitted to the hospital, I would wait anxiously every morning, hoping she would be Our Nurse. ALL the nurses on the pediatric floor were wonderful, but I clicked with her. She was our favorite.
When Maddie was admitted to the PICU for her fourth hospital stay, I was disappointed when I realized the nurses were different than the ones we knew from the pediatric floor. They didn't know us; we didn't know them. The PICU nurses were GREAT. But it's hard to be in the hospital, let alone intensive care, when you don't have familiarity with the people helping you care for your sick child.
Heather and Maddie
Maddie knocked out a couple of IVs and the PICU nurses and I were all frustrated. Someone mentioned calling a nurse on the peds floor to see if someone else would have better luck placing a line. I asked if Our Nurse was there. She was, and she came down. Maddie's eyes lit up when she saw her. Mine did, too. Our Nurse got a line in right away. Unfortunately, Maddie knocked it out again a few hours later. Our Nurse came back, but this time it was much harder to find a spot to insert a new line. We decided to give Maddie a break from needle sticks and try again after a few minutes. Our Nurse left. And then the doctors decided to intubate.
I was alone. My mom had run back to my house to take care of a few things, and my husband had to drive back to the hospital from his office. I stood there and fretted while the doctors worked on my baby. Things started to go south. A social worker came to stand with me so I wouldn't be alone. She was nice, but she didn't know us. She couldn't explain the medical terms to me. I didn't know what was happening, and things were getting frantic. Then Our Nurse came back.
She came right to me, and held my hand. She narrated what was happening, and explained the new things like intraosseous IVs and epinephrine. When I would shake and cry and panic because Maddie's heart was slowing down and her blood gas was dropping, she would calm me and say that Maddie was strong and a fighter, and this was nothing she couldn't beat. It wasn't a line -- she believed it. When I would mutter and pray and beg and plead, she did too. We begged and plead and prayed and clutched hands for the worst three hours of my life. And when the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do, she helped pick me up off the ground when I collapsed.
I looked in her face and I said, "Why, why Maddie, why my baby?" And she said, "I don't know why it was our girl." And she cried and cried with us.
We were pulled apart, and she went back to her job to care for the kids on the pediatric floor. For some reason, in the blur of shock that followed, I forgot her name. This upset me more than I could express because I wanted to write a letter to the hospital and tell them how much she meant to me and my daughter, and how lucky they were to have her on their staff. For a while I did my best to find her, contacting the hospital to see if anyone could tell me who she might be, but no one could.
Then, several months after Madeline's death, Our Nurse found me. I was standing in the lobby of another hospital when I looked up and was surprised to see her standing before me. There were many things we could have said to each other in that moment, but instead of talking we hugged and cried for what felt like hours. Eventually I did try to thank her, but she stopped me and instead thanked me. She went on to speak earnestly about the impact Maddie had on her life, and how she would never, ever forget her. This meant more to me than she could have ever realized.
Today Our Nurse and I are friends on Facebook, and I check in on her often. When I learned she's expecting her first child, a girl due any day now, I cried with happiness. That baby is so lucky to have such an intensely caring, kind-hearted mother, just as we're so lucky to have someone like her (and so many other amazing nurses) standing with us through the most difficult times of our lives.