Monday, May 23, 2016

Charging Over the Hill

For some reason, 40 is an age that has always held a negative connotation. 40 puts you "over the hill". Technically, the average life expectancy of a woman in Maryland is 81.27 years, so perhaps 40 is mid-life.. but why is it an age to be dreaded???? I never really gave it much thought. Now, with 24 days to go, I am pumped!

Yes, things are sagging that I wish weren't, yes I will need reading glasses before too long. All things considered, I don't dread 40. I AM EXCITED to turn 40. 2016 has been a banner year so far and it isn't even halfway done. At 40, I've learned lessons I wish I had at 30. The past few years have not been the easiest, but I'm hitting my stride in my professional life, my family is amazing, and I have the best friends anyone could ask for.

I still have lessons to learn. I let the moods and attitudes of others impact me more than I should. I'm not good at saying "no" when I'm asked to take on something new, even if my plate is too full. I have learned, however, to appreciate the small things, the downtime, the quiet in between the chaos.

So as I turn 40, I embrace the last 40 years and look forward to the next 40. I am beyond thankful for those who mentor me, who put up with me when I hit a stumbling block (or have a complete and total meltdown), and those who encourage me. Here's to charging up the hill and embracing what comes next!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

"Yes You Can"

Several years ago, I regularly attended my friend Sherri's spin class. Sherri has a way of being incredibly motivating as an instructor, and often uses the phrase "Yes You CAN". She also says "you can do anything for 30 seconds (or one minute, or one hour)"... a phrase I repeated to myself often during triathlons and running races. More recently, at a different gym, my trainer Emily often says "Yes You CAN" while motivating her classes. She also says "If it does not challenge you, it will not change you." On rough days at work I repeat this phrase to myself.

Yes...these are motivational phrases used to help participants get through a one hour fitness class...perhaps not something people would see as life-changing. For me, every time I hear these words spoken, I want to work a bit harder, to push further, to realize that next goal.

It isn't just at the gym... This year I have had the opportunity to realize a goal I have attempted to achieve three times... a spot on the ballot for a position with a nursing organization I have worked closely with for over a decade. The first two times I didn't make it, but I am fortunate to have several amazing mentors who are leaders in critical care nursing... It was them telling me "yes you can" that led me to apply another time... them telling me "yes you can" that led me to believe I was worthy of applying in the first place. There are many amazing critical care nurses and nurse practitioners out there, some of whom I get to work with daily. So what makes me think I am qualified for this position in the first place? The people who told me "Yes You CAN".

So often we are focused on looking forward, on the next task or next goal. I am absolutely guilty of this at times, but also find that taking a moment to encourage someone else when I am struggling can help me to refocus. If we take just a minute, to look over our shoulders and extend a hand to someone who could use it, and say "Yes You CAN"... how would that impact the world around us? It doesn't have to be someone who is facing an immense challenge... perhaps someone who is already excelling at what they do.. or someone who could use that little push.. Take a moment to say "Yes You CAN", and see what happens.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately...especially in Emily's class when she says those three little words. Today, a friend shared a story that has gone viral. It is a potent reminder of the amazing things that can happen when just one person says "Yes you CAN." Take a minute to read the story of Sam, the dancing Barista, and then ponder how you can do the same for someone else, even if on a much smaller scale. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Groundhog Day: One Mom's Story of Stroke Survival

Disclaimer: This isn't my story. This is Amy's story. I was fortunate to be her caregiver, and now her friend. I have Amy's permission to share her story because stroke awareness is so very important.

If you have seen the movie "Groundhog Day", you know that Bill Murray gets endless attempts to live the same day over and over again, until he gets it right. Many of us in healthcare wish we got "do-overs" when we think we could have diagnosed a problem sooner, or treated it differently. But we don't. On Groundhog Day 2006, things went exactly right on the first try...

Amy's story could have gone so differently. It could have been the story of a young mother who suffered a debilitating stroke, unable to use one side of her body and unable to speak. Perhaps with extensive physical and speech therapy, her condition would have improved. It would have been a long time, if ever, before Amy returned to work. Amy's husband Chuck would have been supporting her recovery and parenting their two young sons.

Instead, thanks to an astute coworker, educated EMS providers, and a push to give tissue plasminogen activator ("tPA" or the "Clot buster") to stroke patients, Amy's story is very different. Amy was working at a local school when she developed the weakness and inability to speak clearly. Her colleague recognized the signs and called 9-1-1. EMS providers rushed her to the Emergency Department with extensive detail about her "time last known normal" and her symptoms. In the Emergency Department, staff acted quickly to perform the necessary tests and begin tPA administration. This is when I met Amy, as I helped to support the staff in giving the tPA. This was our second time ever administering it, and frankly, tPA scared us. The concerning side effect is bleeding, especially in the brain, but without it the recovery prospects may be dismal.

Within hours, Amy was moving both arms and legs...soon she was able to begin speaking. I will never forget her telling me how bothersome the bright lights had been, and how loudly everyone spoke to her because she couldn't talk back. Amy left the hospital with minimal disability. She underwent follow up care and management of her stroke risk factors, but ten years later she is a Mom of two wonderful young men, who now travels the country as a consultant to train teachers.

Simply because someone recognized the signs of stroke and acted "FAST", Amy has been able to impact countless others.
- How many swim meets has she attended in ten years, cheering on her sons?
- How many teachers has she impacted with her training?
- How many people were able to recognize the signs of a stroke in someone else because they heard Amy's story?

Ten years later, stroke care has been refined and tPA use, as well as advanced neurological intervention, are much more widespread. The key is for stroke patients to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

So what can you do? Don't ignore the warning signs of stroke. Even if you aren't sure, call 9-1-1 and get checked out. Remember to "Act FAST". The most beneficial stroke care is time sensitive.
Have more questions? Check out the Stroke Association or the American Heart Association.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I made another Mom cry...and I'm so glad I did!

After a wonderful family getaway, I rushed to the grocery store to pick up food for diner and the coming week. Our kids have reached the age where they can be left home unless they have a burning desire to shop with me.

My first stop is always the produce aisle. As I was choosing my vegetables, I noticed a Mom with a toddler (a boy around 3) in one of those car carts.

Any parent knows those carts...beloved by children and IMPOSSIBLE TO STEER!!! The benefit of an entertained child (or two) weighs out over the muscle strain caused by trying to drive the cart.

Said Mom was picking out squash, and had placed it on the scale and gone to get a plastic bag. She stopped mid-step, and looked back at her son. "I'm sorry, did you want to help me?" He struggled to get out of the car, and Mom reached over to help him. She took him over to the scale, where she asked him to count the squash and they began to talk about how much it weighed.

I thought to myself "What an awesome Mom". I thought of the dozens hundreds of times I coaxed my kids through the grocery store with promises of "five more minutes", or a donut if they behaved. I thought of how few times I took the time to involve them in the process. I thought again, "What an awesome Mom". Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of an raging extrovert, and have been known to strike up a conversation just about anywhere. I didn't want to intrude on her Mom moment, so I went about my shopping.

Three aisles later, Mom and her car cart were coming toward me amidst the Taco Tuesday fixins. She apologized for her large cart. I told her she had nothing to apologize for, and that I had seen her in the vegetable aisle and thought she was an amazing mother.

With tears in her eyes, she said "My whole family has been sick. My younger daughter, me, my husband. We are finally getting out of the house after days at home and I feel like I have been so impatient with my son. You made me cry."

I told her again what a wonderful Mom I thought she was, and went about my shopping. All evening, I have been thinking to myself about how much more we could do to build one another up as mothers (or parents). So often we feel inferior because we don't make pinterest-worthy crafts, or we feel impatient, or we feel like we are barely holding it together.

All it takes is someone occasionally saying "you are doing a good job", or in my case a snowboard instructor who tells me that my son was a really good listener...It just takes a minute to make a Mom feel like they are getting it right. Why don't we do it more often????