January 28, 2010

The Best Medicine

Last night I had a patient who was a very young 88. He has been married to his sweetheart for 66 years and the honeymoon still ain't over. I have never seen a couple so happy and affectionate to each other. Before she left for the night he said "Give me a smooch doll face, I love ya baby." Anyway, he had taken a spill the day before and was in our unit because he had a small bleed in his head..no worries, he is going to be just fine. He also suffered two broken ribs. Broken ribs are extremely painful and there isn't much to do to treat them.

"Mike" is one of those people that smiles with his whole face. He lights up the room. You really can't help but smile too.. you wont even realize your doing it. He also loves to laugh which is very painful with broken ribs. The only thing he loved more then laughing himself was making us laugh which we did at every clever comment that came out of his mouth...and there were quite a few. Every time he made us laugh he would laugh too.. after each time he would yell in pain "Jesus Mary and Joseph!" laugh..."Jesus Mary and Joseph!" The problem is that the things he would say really were very funny ..we tried not to laugh for his sake but weren't successful..we laughed..he laughed..then "Jesus Mary and Joseph!" I finally said to him "Mike, you gotta stop with the jokes, I don't want you to hurt yourself." He said to me "Lovie, I love to smile and I love making people smile, it makes me happy. So.. it is my best medicine. Don't worry about me.. I am just fine..Now that Tiger Woods, he's the one you gotta worry about" laugh.."Jesus Mary and Joseph!"

I thought about what he said and realized he is right. Not about Tiger, about the laughing. Who doesn't feel better after a good, genuine laugh? It uplifts us..it's a release..it feels good. Maybe he is on to something..maybe we should listen to the secret of an 88 year old man who has more heat in his relationship and more energy in his daily life then most 25 year olds. It's simple, really; in the face of pain, sadness, illness or just day to day life challenge yourself to be happy. smile. laugh. Maybe it is the best medicine...

January 27, 2010

The Visit

Last night at the beginning of my shift a woman on the unit caught my eye. She was vibrant, she was happy, she was familiar. I decided she reminded me of the choreographer, Mia Michaels, and went on with my work. As I was charting on the computer I could see someone approaching me out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see the woman standing next to me. I smiled at her and then she said "I just wanted to say hello, I remember you were one of the nurses who took care of me in bed 14 and I wanted to thank you. You all took such good care of me and I really can't thank you enough." Boom. Light bulb in my head. Oh my gosh! I remembered her now! Oh my gosh! When I took care of her she was really sick. I told her I would have never recognized her had she not said something, she looked amazing. She looked healthy! I was instantly flooded with lots of emotions. It's not often we get a follow up on a patient at all...let alone one like this.

As critical care nurses, we see patients at their worst. When they aren't critical anymore we transfer them to medical floors or rehab, so we never really get to see them better which can be disheartening at times. For that reason, this visit meant the world to me. She gave us hope and encouragement. She reminded us that although it might not always seem that we are making a difference or helping these people the way we want to be...what we do matters..what we do does make a difference and helps in ways we may never know.

January 24, 2010

Current Obsessions

If I really like something ..I usually become obsessed..can't get enough of it..lately these two have stolen a lot of my attention..

..thats what she said

..officially a little monster

January 22, 2010

According to Plan

Ever since I was a little kid I have had big plans. Plans of what my life was going to be. Over the years they have been modified but none the less..plans. What I wanted to be when I grew up, all the places I would travel, where I would live, the accomplishments I would achieve, what age I would get married to my "prince charming", how many kids I was going to have etc. I think we all do this to an extent, who doesn't think, hope, plan for the future, right?

Lately, I have noticed that the more I plan, the more I am disappointed. Not that anything I am doing is not okay but it isn't on track with what I planned for my life. I've realized that when we dream we don't take into account that there will be difficulties to face along the way, that life happens and things don't always work out as planned. We don't take into account how much things will cost, that we'll kiss a lot of frogs before our prince, that we may have to work a little more then we would like to at something we don't necessarily know is our "dream job." We are frustrated because the real world is not everything we thought it would be. We spend our whole childhood wishing to grow up and our adulthood wishing we were children again.

I've tried lately to stop planning so much, stop worrying about the future and just enjoy today. I've learned that life can be stressful, it can be hard..but at the end of the day it's going to be okay. Even if it seems like the end of the world, its not. Even if you feel like your going no where, you are. If you feel like you'll never be what you wanted to be, you will..don't give up.. just allow yourself time. And maybe, just maybe, entertain the thought that maybe you aren't the same person today that you were when you made your "plan."

If you know me you know that I love my music..I have a song for just about every emotion..and I would like to share the song that makes me feel better about this topic with you. It's called "Vienna" written by one of my favs Billy Joel..

Slow down you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart tell me why
Are you still so afraid?
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight
Too bad but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself
That you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right

You got your passion you got your pride
But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on but don't imagine they'll all come true
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It's alright you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize...
Vienna waits for you.

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through

Why don't you realize...Vienna waits for you
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

January 21, 2010

Must Love Dogs

I've always been weary of people who don't like dogs. I just tell myself they must have never had one. I mean how could you not love something that loves you unconditionally, is so excited to see you all the time and wants nothing more then your approval. It's funny to me when women say "men are dogs." I think, if only they were we wouldn't have much to complain about. :) Anyway, anyone that knows me knows that I am an animal lover and that dogs have a special place in my heart. I am lucky enough to have three. :)

Meet Molly...

Molly is two and a half now (they grow up so fast) I got her senior year of college, so she was around people all the time, making her a very sociable chihuahua. She has been known to bark at strangers but quickly warms up to anyone who loves on her. Yup, she is a repeat cuddle offender. She hates when I put shirts/sweaters on her and will wiggle until she gets out of them. You can imagine how much she liked this bow on her head..just a picture opportunity.

Meet Sidney...

Sidney is definitely the smartest of the three and always knows how to get what she wants. Yes, all three are spoiled..how could you not? She is also the poster pup for lap dogs, there is no place she would rather be then on your lap.

Meet Max...

Max is the boy of the trio. The old man of the house. He is known for his awkwardness, compulsive licking, his ability to talk..yes, talk, and for putting his head on your shoulder like a baby whenever you hold him. He is the sweetest boy.

Look at those faces..they are the joys in my life and I always encourage people who can handle and afford the responsibility of a dog to get one..I will always have a dog in my life so whoever shares it with me..must love dogs :)

January 20, 2010


I have often heard it said that when we die God will reveal to us the mysteries and meaning of life. That it is not something we are to understand as humans on earth. Thus, the whole faith thing. All I can say to that is the big guy better be ready for me because I have a lot of questions. A lot of "why?" questions.

The Neuro ICU is starting to get to me and I'm not sure how long I will be able to stay there. Brain death is evil and lately it's all I see. I refuse to become cold to it because that's not who I am. However, I have never felt so helpless as a nurse. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make them better, nothing to brighten their day..they simply aren't there. Last night it was a 42 year old woman whose brain death was the result of a ruptured aneurysm. She had given birth to her first child, a beautiful baby girl, four days before the rupture..why God? Please, make me understand.

My 3AM break came around and I knew I had to get off the floor. Only problem is there aren't many places to go at such an hour. I found myself in the meditation room on the main floor. It was eerily quiet. I had an hour to kill and didn't want to be alone with my thoughts so I picked up the bible, something I will confess I never do. I flipped to a random page and started reading. About three paragraphs in I read this:

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands. For while we are in this tent, we groan to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. It is God who has made us for this very purpose." -Corinthians II 5:1, 4-5

Call me crazy, but I feel like God spoke to me. I interpreted this passage, that I randomly turned to, to mean that He makes each of us for the sole purpose of spending eternity with Him and some make it to their earthly purpose sooner than others. In essence, nothing takes God by surprise because He knows the end from the beginning. Nothing is by chance, there is meaning, though we hurt and can't understand.

Maybe it was delirium from lack of sleep taking over, but I believe my "why?" was answered the best it could be at this point in time.

January 18, 2010


One of the things I always notice when walking down the streets of NYC is the faces of it's people. It's very easy to tell the true New Yorkers from tourists. Tourists are happy, excited and 9 times out of 10 have a camera out and pointing up. New Yorkers on the other hand always look very serious, focused, even robot like. I guess we have never had the reputation as a happy, polite, welcoming people but come on! So, I have made it my mission to change New York one smile at a time. There aren't many people in the world who wont smile back when smiled at. I do my best to smile at every person I make eye contact with and the results have been quite successful.

I know personally that a smile has made my day. A smile has gotten me through tough times. A smile has given me hope for a better tomorrow. We have all been given a gift that is universally understood as a positive gesture when genuine, we should put it to use a little more. Don't ya think? Try it. A smile has great power to positively influence others as well as ourselves. You'll feel good, they will feel good..trust me on this one :)

Though your heart is aching,
Smile Even though its breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky-
You'll get by,
If you Smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through-
For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness,
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,
What's the use of crying,
You'll find that life is still worhwhile,
If you just smile.

January 17, 2010

A Challenge

It's easy go get caught up in the drama and stresses that each of us inevitably face in our every day life. How easily we let petty things consume us, break us down. The reality is, in the grand scheme of things, it's not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. It's usually not the end of the world, life goes on. But for the people of Haiti life as they knew it ceased on Tuesday morning; their homes and families shattered. It's sad that it takes a tragedy to remind us how lucky we are, to remind us what is really important in life.

I challenge everyone to do what they can to help those that are not as fortunate right now. The Red Cross is asking that people donate $10 to help in the relief effort. $10 is two venti coffees at starbucks, lunch at the deli, a movie ticket - however you want to look at it. Even the smallest amount CAN make a huge difference. Please pray for the people of Haiti because life doesn't stop and wait because your world fell apart. Let's not leave them behind.. http://www.redcross.org/

January 15, 2010

Back to Basics

I'll never forget my first grade teacher..Mrs O' Toole. She taught us rules of life that would keep us safe, make us better people.

Look both ways before you cross the street.

Look where you are going.

Use the hand rail when you walk down the stairs.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Wear your helmet when riding your bike or skateboard.

Wear your seatbelt in the car.

Red means stop, green means go, yellow means slow down.

Treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated.

Don't smoke

Drugs are bad

Never drink and drive

Dont speak ill of others.

Go to the doctor and dentist for check ups.

Try to eat healthy, 8 glasses of water a day.

Everything in moderation.

Always swim by a lifeguard.

If only people followed these basic rules of life I bet the patient population I see would be cut in half as these factors are a part of the reason they are in the hospital. I cant help but wonder if we would be a safer and healthier people if we would just go back to basics.

January 12, 2010

A Private Matter

I've noticed lately that nurses have a sick sense of humor. The things we find funny, the jokes we make, the patients we egg on would make our mothers and grandmothers blush in embarrassment. It's a culture we share only with each other, only at work. I feel it to be a defense mechanism, a reason to smile that keeps us going for our patients. For if we allowed ourselves to feel everything our patients felt all the time we wouldn't be able to do our jobs, we would be messes. Not to say we aren't compassionate because we are but everyone needs a comic relief now and then.

Last night I was not the one that had to make the jokes or look to my coworkers for a reason to laugh. My 79 year old patient, Mr. T, put a smile on my face all night long. He is one of those people that could say anything and make you laugh because of the way he said it. He was very polite, "thank you" "sounds good" "very nice" were his answers to all my explanations of procedures before I did them. He is what we call oriented x 2, which in his case is oriented to person and time but disoriented to place and situation. When I asked him if he knew where he was I got answers including air force one, Dallas, Oyster Bay and "the big game". Mr T also had an obsession with cupping his "goodness." I was warned about this in report and let it go for awhile. However, it got to the point where I had to ask. "Mr T, is everything alright down there?" I was not expecting the answer I got, "Yep, thanks kid, I just don't want to go soft." With a little bit of shock and amusement in my voice, "Oh! Okay then!" To which he says, "I'm European you know." Me, "European?" Mr T, "I am?? Oh crap! damn prostate!"

And that is how I got the biggest laugh of my career to date, thanks Mr. T!

January 10, 2010

it seems impossible but she is even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside...

She is Love. She is Strength. She is Kind. She is Selfless. She is Inspiring. She is my Mother.

January 09, 2010

Life's a Beach

Some of the best memories I have come from the eight summers I worked as a lifeguard. For three months I adopted the island life, a surfer's mentality. No stress, every little thing was alright.

The crew quickly became my summer family as I saw them more then my own. We were an unlikely group of people to meet if it had not been for the beach. We had a wide range of ages and personalities but against most odds we clicked. We were care free, we were happy, we were beautifully tan.

Our spirits were renewed with each passing summer. The ocean was our therapy, the sunsets strengthened our faith and the cool breeze in our hair made us feel alive. We were thankful for the beauty all around us. There was never a bad day at the beach.

January 08, 2010

Not Always As It Seems

I work the night shift which in nursing language means 7pm-7am aka sleepy time for the rest of the world. These hours intimidated me at first. All my life I have slept at night and been up during the day as most people. There is something mysterious about the night shift as there is always something mysterious about a life that the majority of the public doesn't understand. It's a game us night people tease the normal people with, some secret club if you will, however, I'll reveal that it is nothing out of the ordinary. According to one of my best friends, Laura, it's all about McDreamys, McSteamys and on call rooms. I hate to break it to my greys friends but its not as seductive and glamorous as television portrays. In fact, nothing about my job is glamorous. I wont get into details for the sake of your next meal, just take my word for it. If you asked me when I was a child what I wanted to be when I grow up, it wouldn't be the details of what I do day to day, however, it would be the big picture; taking care of someone in their most vulnerable time and advocating for them and their needs. There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more rewarding, sleep or no sleep.

The Christmas Present

Any nurse will tell you that they have a handful of patients they will never forget. I knew this to be true the minute I got report at change of shift about patient K. She was young, too young. Over the two week span that I took care of her I watched her decline. Her family was an unforgettable pillar of strength and hope. Listening to their stories and memories I really felt like I knew her. The day came where hope of her recovery was gone, she was brain dead. I walked in to her room with my colleague to get report and the words "organ donation" came out of his mouth. I could immediately feel a lump in my throat, the tears welling up. "Stop, Liz, not here not now," I kept telling myself. I was told that night by the other nurses that it will get easier, I'll get to a point where I don't cry anymore, that the "first" is always the hardest. I hope that never happens. What happened next blew me away. When the father was told by the organ donation nurse "I am so sorry this happened to your family, and right before Christmas." He turned to her and said, "We will love and miss our daughter as long as we live but I'm not sorry it happened right before Christmas, actually it's perfect. Put a big red bow on her organs and give 5 families their Christmas present." Each time I worked the family always said "Thank you for taking such good care of her. She is lucky to have a nurse like you" Little did they know that I was the one that should have been thanking them, that I was the one who was lucky to get to meet people like them.