Monday, July 26, 2010

"Nobody Messes with My Brother"

When Tommy and I decided to have a second child, one of the biggest motivators (aside from Mother Nature telling me I wanted another one NOW) was our own memories of having a sibling. Aside from the memories of sparring on a daily basis with my sister, I also thought of the times (especially as adults) we had worked together through an issue, gone to an awesome concert, or just enjoyed hanging out.

Some days, I feel like I need a striped jersey and a whistle to keep up with my kids (ages 7 1/2 and 4). Then there are these shining moments where they play peacefully, creating elaborate scenarios and acting them out harmoniously. These moments make the more challenging ones worthwhile.

Yesterday, I had one of my most proud moments as a mother. Not proud in a "My kid is smarter than everyone else" sort of way (though I must say my daughter kicks some serious spelling test tail). This was something much bigger for me. This situation didn't come from anything I had to prod my daughter to do, but from her inherent love for her younger brother.

We were at the pool while visiting family. Both kids were in the shallow end. My son was up to his upper chest, splashing with his sister. There was a girl of about 5, who appeared to have special needs. Her grandmother was watching her from a bit of a distance, when she suddenly walked up and grabbed my son's rash guard with both hands. He didn't freak, but she didn't let go, either. I was about six feet away, watching. I was prepared to intervene, but also was hoping she would let go and I would let the situation work itself out without paranoid Mom jumping in. The girl's older brother attempted to get her off my son, and that is when it become apparent they were going to pull his head under the water. I raced down the steps and went to grab him. Literally before I even knew what happened, he wasn't where I last saw him. I looked to my right, and my daughter was holding him tight. Before I could even respond (and I was watching the entire situation unfold), she had rescued him. It wasn't until later that I really processed this and conveyed to her how very proud I was. She protected her brother, and was quick to respond when he needed her. I didn't have time to even utter a word and she responded. I have never been so proud, and so thankful that my children love one another (even when they are beating up on one another). When I praised her, she said "I won't let any boy or girl mess with my brother."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Homemaker"??? How about "Super Mom"??

One of the very enthusiastic, very dedicated members of my tri club is in the process of finishing her first ever Ironman today. Linda has boundless energy....she is an enthusiastic Mom, cook, party planner, supporter of other triathletes, athlete...the list goes on and on.

Sonja is one of my Trakkers teammates. She is a bona fide triathlon rock star....ran a 100 mile race in the desert, had a podium finish at the Quassy HalfRev race in June, an awesome finish at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, and is now bound for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. To quote her blog, Sonja is a "Denver Mom and Wife. Triathlete. Snowshoe Racer. Climber. Positive Hard-Working Chick."

So why am I blogging about them tonight? When I followed Sonja during her Ironman race, and Linda tonight, the Ironman website lists a profession. Examples include "Computer analyst. Attorney. Business Executive. Miscellaneous." Linda and Sonja are both listed as "Homemaker". I don't know why, but I think that word does them a total injustice.

I have all the respect in the world for my friends who are stay-at-home Moms. I seriously think it is the hardest job out there. Being a Mom in general is hard, but being an IronMom is that much harder. These women essentially work a part-time job training for their Ironman race. More than that, they are amazing Moms! I just watched Linda cross the line at Lake Placid (online coverage, of course).

I think their Ironman profiles should say "Super Mom"!!! That might do them justice!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes Compassion is the Best Prescription I Can Write

Sometimes I think people overshare in their blogs or Facebook/Twitter posts. This may be verging on that, but a conversation yesterday and several recent events have led this topic to weigh heavily on my mind today. It is quite possible for something profound to the writer to come as across cheesy to the reader, but I hope I do it justice.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a Nurse Practitioner student about patients at end of life. When you decide to be a critical care nurse, you are focused on high-energy, fast-paced management of critically ill patients. The meds, the machines, the critical thinking required to get people better. What you don't necessarily realize is that we also encounter instances (not infrequent) where we have exhausted available therapies, or the patient is ready to give up the fight. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to make someone comfortable and provide support to their family.

As we were having this conversation, I pulled out the obituary of a patient who had touched me profoundly at the end of his life. I couldn't have told you exactly when he died, but it turns out it was around this time of year. He was 80, had suffered a massive heart attack at 40, and was told he wouldn't live past 60. Months after a huge 80th birthday celebration, he suffered a heart attack. He was stable at first, but then it became apparent that things weren't going well. After days of trying the available therapies, his family made the decision to let him go peacefully. He had been in and out of consciousness, and was confused when awake. Of course his family and his healthcare team didn't take the decision lightly. Even when you know you are out of options, it is hard to throw in the towel. Sometimes we have to be the ones to tell patients/their families that it is ok to let go.

On the day he passed away, I was in the room with the patient and his son. He had not been alert, but he suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled the oxygen mask away from his face. "I'm not scared," he said "They told me I wouldn't live past 60. I lived to 80. I watched my children and my grandchildren grow up. I'm not scared." Of course I was bawling. What a gift he gave us- he let us know that our decision was the right one, and that he wasn't in pain and wasn't scared. He gave his son peace of mind, and let us know that he was ready. It was a moment that will always stick with me.

Not everyone has time to prepare for such a sad event, but when people are aware that their time is close, they seem to achieve peace and acceptance. People also seem to have amazing control at the end- some wait for that last family member to arrive, defying the odds so one more person can say goodbye. Others wait until everyone has stepped out for a meal or a breath of fresh air, not wanting to burden them. As a Nurse Practitioner, sometimes I feel like I intrude on a very intimate moment, but I would also like to think there are times when I have brought someone just a sliver of comfort.

While we are good at the fast-paced, high intensity atmosphere of critical care, we don't always know what to say to patients and families at the end of life. You worry about saying the wrong thing, and sometimes "I'm sorry" seems so insufficient. Sometimes we tell our patients that it is ok to go. Sometimes it is a hand on a shoulder, tissues for a grieving family member, tears shed by the staff. Sometimes the medications and machines aren't the right thing anymore. Sometimes the best prescription we can write is for compassion.