That Hospital Stay and One Nurse in the ICU
In 1974, my wife and myself were frightened when the Pediatric Neurologist diagnosed my daughter, Jessie, with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when she was less than a year old. During this time we lived in Brooklyn. Hence, we were aware that the cold winter weather had a detrimental effect on children with SMA. Therefore, we decided to move to Florida.
Packed up and moved to a warmer place
My wife and I sold our house, quit our jobs, moved away from our families, and relocated. We bought a home, got jobs, and settled into a new warmer living style.
Jessie still caught the flu and needed hospitalization
Meanwhile, that winter, Jessie had the flu. Moreover, it caused her to have severe respiratory difficulties. She was rushed to a local hospital and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). The doctors examined my daughter.
At 6:00 a.m., the nurses changed shifts. One nurse, Shirley, was coming on duty and passed by the waiting room where my wife and I were sitting. Shirley saw us crying. She came in to find out what was wrong. We told her that the doctors told us Jessie may not last the day.
Divine intervention: yes or no?
Jessie remained in the hospital for about four months since she continued to have breathing difficulties. Sadly, she was becoming weaker and weaker.
Shirley, the nurse, was a caring, compassionate born-again Christian woman. In conversation, She learned I was Jewish. She informed me that she had a 'personal relationship with God and asked me if I would be offended if she prayed to Jesus for divine intervention for Jessie’s medical care. I told her it was alright. We felt better after speaking with Shirley.
One day, we were allowed into the ICU to see our daughter. To our surprise, the nurse assigned to Jessie was none other than Shirley! What a God-incidence!
Grateful for Shirley
When Shirley was responsible for Jessie’s care, she appeared to improve! God’s intervention??? Or, were we just wishfully hoping??? No, we felt that she was truly an angel sent from above!
Each day we hoped that Shirley was assigned to Jessie. Subsequently, for the next four weeks, she was miraculously assigned to care for Jessie almost everyday. She was improving!
The charge nurse gets involved
Then, all of a sudden, the charge nurse, realized that we were becoming too dependent on Shirley’s care for Jessie. Consequently, I questioned the charge nurse about her decision. She replied that she reassigned Shirley to another ICU patient. (This was her prerogative.)
I pleaded with her and she scheduled Shirley to be with her once a week. We felt that Shirley had a special rapport with my daughter.
Was the charge nurse's decision correct?
Way after this incident, my wife and I discussed what had transpired. We realized the pros and cons of our actions and the decision of the charge nurse. I looked at this situation from the charge nurse's view as to my wishes for Jessie.
In favor of keeping Shirley on Jessie's case:
In my opinion, I was relieved that Jessie had a compassionate, caring nurse, who was truly involved in what she provided to my daughter. She established rapport with her and made Jessie feel comfortable every day. Jessie and the family trusted her.
Consequently, she singlehandedly made the entire family emotionally able to cope with this event.
In favor of reassigning Shirley:
Looking back, I could see the charge nurse's side of the situation. She was also correct in managing her staff, avoiding prolonged dependency of having Shirley have such a personal involvement with Jessie and the family. Shirley was becoming emotionally intertwined with Jessie. This was not becoming a healthy environment for Jessie or Shirley. She was not exposed to the care of other nurses. If Shirley took time off or left her job a the hospital, this would be devastating for my daughter.
Furthermore, by looking at the entire picture, we realized that both my family and the charge nurses were only looking out for the best interests of Jessie’s care from different perspectives.
Have you found something to help you mentally cope with SMA?