Catching Hope

Looking for the grace of God that surrounds us

Speaking of hope….

my patients need it.  Or maybe I need it for them.  Can you hope for someone else?  I think so.

My first little boy looked up at me with cracked, dry lips and angry, sad, pain-filled eyes.  His mommy kept stepping out of the room to cry, then come back in to offer what support she had for him.  “It’s so hard,” she said.  “First the refugee camp…we didn’t have food every day.  And the attacks.  Then we come here, and he–”

I administered the injection meant to boost his dwindling white cells, gave him pain medication for the long bone pain that inevitably comes with the cancer, wanly smiled at their pastor that had come to visit and was oh, so glad he was there to offer the kind of support that I just didn’t have the time to offer.  Or just couldn’t figure out the right way to offer it, no matter how hard I tried and wanted to.

My second child, five months old, sat on one side of the floor in her carseat, bottle propped next to her, in a dirty used-to-be-white onsie stained with spit-up and bottle drool.  She was set aside, just about forgotten.  I picked up her seven pound, 12 ounce body and held her close, because no one else would.  Child Protection will come soon….but is there any more hope for her than that?

I forced a tiny tube down the nose of my third patient today.  A little six-month-old, who escaped death by a hair’s breadth multiple times in his short life, and now needs a tube threaded down in to his stomach because somewhere along the lines of fighting the pneumonia, the infections and the IV tubes he never had the time or the energy to learn how to eat.  Alarms beeping, baby crying, mom trying to comfort….and my hands shaking as I hook the monitors back up and spend the rest of the night worrying about how he is.

I try to fight for my patients, try to have hope for them.  But in the utterly terrifying sadness of cancer, the despair of neglect and the gnawing worry of wondering if I made the right clinical decisions and if I really made the gravity of the situation clear enough to the doctor, sometimes I don’t know how.

I don’t know if the heaviness in my heart is sadness, pain, anger, anxiety…or just the love that causes and encompasses it all.  I pray for the love of Jesus to fill my heart for my patients like these, so that I can fight for them practically as well as through prayer.  But sometimes, some nights like these, it seems impossible….

“Speaking of hope,” Jesus says, “I have it.  It is found in me.  I love you, I love them, and my love is NOT despairing or heavy or angry or sad….it is just love.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light….ask me and I will help you to carry them.  And I, the Great Shepherd, will carry you.” (Romans 8:38-39, 15:13, Isaiah 46:3-4, Matthew 11:28-30, Ezekiel 34:11-16, John 10:11, 14, 13:1).

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Things Nurses Say, part 3

What on earth does a nurse say to a family who just took their baby home to die?

Words fail. And no matter what you say, it never feels like the right thing. You are reminded once again of your need for grace, as you try not to let anyone see that your hands are trembling.

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What Makes A Good Day

I had a good day today.

Not just one, but two of my hospice kids smiled at me–two different visits, two different children.  Neither of them has ever smiled at me before, as both of these children are severely developmentally delayed.  But, there they were–sudden, genuine smiles that went all the way to their eyes.

They don’t know how serious both of their individual situations are.  One, in fact, waits for a very serious, life-threatening surgery.  And yet, they smiled.  And they chose to smile at me.

This is why I love my job.

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Dumb Things Nurses Say, Part 2

OK, well, I’ve done it again.

This time it was a kid who is in a wheelchair about half of the time.

She was telling me that she was going to be 12 in exactly 3 months.

I said, “Oh, you’re getting old!”

She giggled.

Then I said, joking, “You’ll need a cane and a walker soon!”

Then I realized what a dumb thing to say that was, to a kid that’s already in a WHEELCHAIR half of the time….

she wasn’t disturbed. but i was.  : )

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I Hope You Dance

When people ask me what I do, I usually reply that I do pediatric home care and hospice.  And then I wait for the comment, “That must be really hard….”

Its probably because death is hard.  And awkward.  And in some ways completely incomprehensible to alive people.

I don’t understand alot about death myself.  What I do understand, though, is that walking with people through death and dying is a gift.  Not the kind you open on Christmas morning and can’t wait to show everyone.  Instead, it is a process of grief, loss, acceptance–and for me, an ongoing lesson in how to trust in a sovereign Savior and God.  Let me try to explain–

Sometimes death is gentle, calm and peaceful.  Sometime’s it’s not.

But no matter what the circumstances surrounding it are, death is not pretty.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s supposed to remind us of the effect of sin on creation and on our bodies.  It is intended to remind us that life is temporary–and eternity is forever.  I truly believe this with all that is in me.

And yet, the Lord in His common goodness and grace blesses humanity with moments of peace and transparency even in the grief and loss and horrifying reality of the situations in and surrounding death.

And, in the goodness of the Lord, these are gifts to be found–even in those moments.

I feel so blessed to be able to have been there with one family, to share the pure and transparent moment of grief as we knelt on the hallway floor and cried.  I am so grateful that I am able to rejoice with parents for each day they share with their terminally ill children, then be able to at least try to offer some kind of comfort when they lose their child.  And I would never, ever trade the moments I shared with one young patient as we sang along to Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and Nat King Cole’s “What a Wonderful World” while I arranged her pillows, gave her nutrition through an IV, and pushed endless medications into her body.  Nor (oddly enough) would I trade the moments, weeks later, when I watched and prayed for her as her heart rate flickered on the screen and finally was still–such a sobering reminder of the sovereignty of God, who knew exactly at what moment her heart would stop.

Death looks us all in the face, whether that’s in the context of a career, as it is for me, or in the context of being the one to lose a family member or friend.  And yet, the paradox is that there are gifts even in these horrible moments–when are we ever so transparent as we are in the moment of grief?  When are we reminded better of the fragility of life?  When is there a better time to pray for peace and salvation for those in mourning?

But the greatest gift to be found amid death is Christ.  Because of Him, we have the gift of hope.  In the face of the death that surrounds us all, we can rejoice in each breath that God grants to us, eagerly await the day when death will have no sting…and dance.

May He grant us grace to find the gift in the grief, the calm in the confusion, and the courage to give hope to the hopeless.

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Dumb Things Nurses Say, version 1

This time, it was a pre-teen girl with cancer.

I went to the house, gave her her medicine, and then as she pulled out and put on her bright green fake vampire teeth and bright orange pumpkin wig (complete with pumpkin stem!) she wanted to know if I’d play Tic Tac Toe with her on her new Halloween-themed tic tac toe board.  (She was the pumpkins, I was the ghosts).  I lost.  Not even on purpose.  She thought that was just great.

Then I went to leave.  She begged me to stay, begged me to call and visit her, giggling the whole time.

In jest, and totally in response to her complete, put-on overreaction to my leaving, I said, “Are you going to live?”

Like a bucket of ice water, mid-sentence I realized what I was saying and quickly followed that with “live…..uh, through my leaving?!”

As she dramatically replied, “No!!!!!” and cast herself, Ophelia-like, on the couch in fake death, I had to laugh at least a little……and then proceed to kick myself for the rest of the night over saying something so dumb to a kid with cancer.  She didn’t seem to mind so much, though–and I was glad that at least for one fleeting moment she was able to be just a kid.

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The lasting impression…

I have a slightly sore stomach today….

The small child I visited yesterday was none too happy about the new dressing I had to put on her central IV site.  She had recently had a very bad experience at the doctor’s office, so when I walked in with my stethoscope and Tegaderm in hand, life (from her 2 year old perspective) took a distinct turn for the worse.  What I was doing was not at all painful–in fact, most kids don’t mind it at all.  What made it so bad for her was the fear that had been created in her from a past experience.

It made me think about how what we do and say to others has a lasting impact.  I heard once that every interaction we have with a person, even if it is just a smile to a stranger on the street, impacts and changes them–and you–forever.

In the case of my little girl, her past experience of pain and fear has now colored her perspective of nurses and doctors.  She is now afraid–so afraid, in fact, that she screams, cries, and kicks (hence my sore stomach!) to protect herself from what she sees as frightful.  And I don’t blame her at all.

In my case, however, I hope that the interactions that I have with others are positive, joyful interactions that point to Christ.  If my actions and words are going to have a lasting impact, I hope and pray that the lasting impression is one of the face of Jesus.  I fail so often at this–with my grumbling, complaining, overreacting…but by His grace, there is hope that He will make Himself known through me, despite my lingering depravity.

: )

love kristi

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Grasshoppers and Such

I had a busy day of mostly phone calls today.

This is partly why I love pediatrics:

I dial, phone rings.

Small Child:  Hellllooooooo?

Me:  Hi, this is Kristi calling from home care.  Is your mommy home?

Small Child:  Nooo….

(pause)

Small Child:  She went to work out some more.

Me: Oh, I see.  Maybe I’ll try her cell phone and leave a message there.

Small Child:  Oh…..I don’t think she’ll talk on the phone though.

Me:  Oh, that’s ok!  I’ll just leave a message.

Small Child:  Oooohhh, O—HEY!  Guess what?!  I just saw a GRASShopper!!!

Me: (giggling…) oh–good job!!  okay, well…I’ll try to call your mom…..bye…..

And when I did finally get to the home, the Small Child promptly came and sat next to me (or rather, on me) while her baby sister ate my thermometer.

I love my job.

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