Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A tribute

I apologize for this stream of conscious post. I am deliberately not re-reading and editing. It is what it is, because that is what I need it to be. Unhampered by grammatical and societal expectations. A simple pouring out of my heart as I grieve and process.

We lost a patient this week.

I had a million and one posts to write. Updates on different adventures, funny happenings.

And then I lost a patient.

It's not the first time Ive worked with a bereaved family, in fact, this isn't even the most tragic situation I've worked.

But it hurts more.

We talk a lot about professional boundaries in my field, trying to find a line between building therapeutic relationships and forming unhealthy attachments. It's easy in most cases; we know where our job ends and entanglement begins, and we don't cross it.

It's harder with long term patients. Harder when we go through the journey with them, when we become invested in their future.

This young lady I knew since day one of her treatment. I was by her side for any number of heartbreaking experiences, as well as some truly happy memories. I did education when she was first diagnosed, I accompanied her to surgery when her family wasn't around, I sat and colored with her when she was alone and scared. We knew this day would come, especially when tests came back not positive a few weeks ago, but none of us ever dreamed the end would come so quick.

She passed away, at home, with her loved ones, and I can only guess the rest of us would hope the same.

And I hurt, more than any of the other passings I've worked, because this one IS different. She became a friend.

I wouldn't change one bit of it. I maintained my professional boundaries, but I still grew to care for her immensely. Yet, I do not see how I could have possibly managed to do my job without building that relationship.

We choose pain, the pain of having loved and lost or the pain of never having loved at all.

We choose pain, but it seems to me that the former is what gives life it's meaning. My life is richer because of this young lady, and as sorrowful as I am in the moment, I will cherish the time we spent together, forever value the lessons she taught me.

I'm going to a funeral tomorrow night. The first patient funeral I have ever attended. It will be hard, this I know, but I also have no doubt it will be needed. I started this journey with her, and now it is time to end it. Because her pain is gone now, her struggle is complete. She didn't lose her battle to cancer, she overcame it.

So for tonight, I will be sad, and not apologize. For tonight, I will be grateful that I have a job that allows me to reach out to those who are scared and in pain. I will be thankful that I have such a supportive, loving family, and I will enjoy the time I have with my friends. I will live my life without guilt, because the time we have is a gift. I will remember that even when it feels like Im spinning my wheels. I am still slowly building my purpose with my patients. I will remember that I am NOT perfect, but I do not need to be. It is unnecessary to beat myself up over my flaws, but to instead embrace them.

I will stop fighting for, and chasing after, the things and people who are just out of reach. I will appreciate those who love and care for me. I will never give up hope that life can be a bit better.

Tonight I will appreciate, and tomorrow... and the next tomorrow... and the next, I will remember, my sweet patient, with the beautiful face, the appreciation of coloring, the obsession with Pixar movies, who never let her circumstances define her.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rides and Smiles 2012

I don't often get to talk about my work what with hospital privacy and confidentiality laws and all.

However, today I got to take part in a very special annual event. As this event was filmed and broadcasted over multiple media sites, I can share some of my own photos and memories of the day.

Homestead Speedway Miami, FL
 Every year in November, my hospital partners with a local auto group to allow our patients opportunities to take high speed rides in 'dream cars' around the racetrack. Last years cars included: a Camaro convertible, Porsche 911 GTS, Nissan Infiniti G37, Mercedes Benz SLK, Dodge Challenger, Ford GT, Audi R8, a Ferrari 430, and a Masarati. Cars are provided by dealerships and individual owners. (This year's included a Spyder, Viper, and Aston Martin, amongst others). Volunteer drivers take our patients (primarily oncology, and various outpatient rehab diagnoses such as brain damage and Muscular Dystrophy) for rides topping 100+ mph.

Needless to say, the day is an absolute blast. This was my second year participating, and I can't begin to express how grateful I am for our community support. As a staff member, it was refreshing to see the patients outside the confines of the medical walls, and acting as simply kids. :

Posing with one of the 'display' models

Topping 100 mph as we approach the straightaway

After the rides we were treated to lunch. The kids ate outside, enjoying subs. While the adult volunteers were given a chance for a very special lunch, complete with a flyover from the nearby Air Reserve Base

Lunch at the Victory Lane Viewing spot

As the kids finished up with their rides, I was quickly grabbed to do an interview for the local news. Given that i had about 30 seconds to prepare, I think it went quite well.

Click here to watch the full video clip

 We ended the day with gift bags for the kids and presented the association with a thank you card.

An absolutely exhausting day, but well worth it. Not to mention exciting that I can finally share real details of my work. Obviously it's not all fun and games. Most days are spent at the hospital, working one on one in the rooms, cleaning toys and delivering movies until I feel like a glorified maid. However, the special events like this make the rest worth it. I love all my patients equally, and certainly had time with all of my buddies throughout the day. However, I was able to spend time with two particular patients that are very special to me, for specific reasons that I won't share here. I have spent more time than I care to think about with them while they were still in treatment and each had specific challenges in their care. To have a relationship where even now, months later, we can all run around and hang out is truly special. I look at each of them and think of the many hours agonizing over interventions, desperately praying to God for guidance and miracles. I have a picture of them from last year's event, framed on my bathroom counter (given to me as a gift by the family), It reminds me each morning that I can choose to make a difference, i can choose not to give up, and to give my patients my all.

Even when I don't feel like it,

      Even when I feel like I am not making a difference.
            Even when I want to think tasks are beneath me.
                  Even when I feel trapped and ask God to give me more.

Even then- I can make a difference, and I do, with the help of God.

Today was a reminder. I may not always see God's plan in things, I may not always be happy with his answers. But I can do good where I'm at, if I choose.

And some things in life are just greater than me.

If nothing else, I remember, I am blessed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Musings

I work at a Children's Hospital; so naturally with today being Halloween, I was expected to dress in costume. My goal? To impersonate some sort of well known character without having to make any major purchases, aka use things I already have:

Mission accomplished. (I mean doesn't everyone have red patent leather flats laying around their closet.... or is that just me, the self-proclaimed clothes-a-holic?).

Things I realized in the process:

1) Dressing as a well-known character does give every person you encounter license to refer to you in character all day, regardless of whether or not they actually know you. ("Hi Dorothy" was the refrain all day, along with "Where's Toto?").

2) As a caveat- dressing as a beloved children's literature character goes over better when the majority of your coworkers are NOT Latin (aka did not grow up with the Wizard of Oz). "Are you a pilgrim girl?" "Wow, you look cute, but I have no idea who you are" "Your shoes don't match"= all things I heard today. (Side note- who hasn't seen Wizard of Oz? Like... seriously, isn't that mandatory for both childhood and US citizenship?? Classics people, they are the glue that holds our social society together.) (Side note to the side note, I actually love my culturally diverse coworkers but enjoy being able to throw things they don't know back at them given the number of 'pretty little white girl' jokes I endure on a daily basis! :) No racist backlash please!).

3) There's a reason I avoid pigtails and attempt to dress professionally on a regular basis. I lost track of how many other employees were genuinely shocked to find out I was staff, apparently I looked just like a 12 yearold trick or treater ( epic fail.... unless I could get away with ACTUALLY trick or treating for the goods... maybe I didn't think this through!).

4) Ruby slippers are $*#& on the feet, even when they are the ballet flat version.

5) Unintentionally baking cookies for a bake sale that are in theme with your costume is an epic win, even if you don't realize it til after the fact.

Wicked Witch of the West Cookies anyone?

6) Always amusing when you forget that you are in costume and get confused as to why people keep staring at you and smiling.

7) When all else fails, stand next to someone with an even more ridiculous costume and enjoy the day!

Happy Halloween Everyone!