My wife is just a nurse.
I met my wife early in the morning, within the cold, sterile, solitude of a sleepy operating room. We were both setting up our different workspaces for the same procedure. She was a student in a Nurse Anesthesia program and I was a weathered Surgical Technologist and graduate student myself. On that particular morning it was a high acuity open heart surgery uniting us, which was fitting for me because in that moment of meeting her, my heart was repaired as well. Almost a decade later I can hear her voice upon receiving praise from me for being a life-saver, care-giver, and responsibility-taker… “I’m just a nurse man.”
My wife is a special kind of nurse.
The truth is my wife isn’t just a nurse. She is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a title officially born in 1956, but a practice dating back a little over 150 years. It is an advance practice nursing designation that is explained by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists as follows – CRNAs provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified healthcare professionals. When anesthesia is administered by a nurse anesthetist, it is recognized as the practice of nursing; when administered by an anesthesiologist, it is recognized as the practice of medicine. General Anesthesia is defined in this way – (GA) is the state produced when a patient receives medications to produce amnesia and analgesia with or without reversible muscle paralysis. An anesthetized patient can be thought of as being in a controlled, reversible state of unconsciousness. I have taken the time and effort to explain this here for a reason. Most people have never even heard of these highly skilled licensed medical professionals. Yet day in and day out, night in and night out, holiday in and holiday out, theses caregivers are putting it all on the line for us broken, vulnerable, and oblivious patients. When you combine the necessary skill it takes to deliver a myriad of anesthesia interventions and the sweetness, subtlety, care, and humanness of a nurse, you truly get something very special. My wife is very special.
“The greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” – Florence Nightingale
I have known a tremendous amount of nurses and I have worked in almost every medical setting imaginable. Prior to becoming a mental health professional I spent 20 years in the medical field. 8 years of which were spent in the Hospital Corps, USN/USMC. From emergency medicine and rescue work to walk-in clinics and operating rooms, I dare to say that I’ve seen it all. I can tell you this much, in my endeavors in the medical field I have never glanced in any direction and not laid eyes on a nurse doing something critical, special, and necessary. They are the lifeblood of medicine. Nurses are essentially the interior walls of a hospital. They provide the structure and the support and they are the most visible component of the health care machine. It’s almost as if everybody else gets to do their job but the nursing garrison has to care for the personhood of the patient as well as their ailment or malady. Now when these same nurses go back to school at the graduate level, and then begin their advanced practice, the nurse in them soldiers on, and thank the universe for that. Nurses are the humanity of the entire field of medicine… but at what cost?
“I think human beings have an innate desire to help each other, and whether you’re in medicine or anything else, if you see someone that you can help… you get a gratification from doing it. In fact, I think that is perhaps the most important, you might say, fabric, that holds the society together.” – Michael E. DeBakey MD
In my opinion, the fabric that holds our society together is the collective consciousness of those in the helping professions and those that voluntarily serve our country in a military capacity, and often those two intersect. Nursing, Medicine, Mental Health, Social Work, First Responders et al. These are people-on-people professions with nursing being the most prolific and pure. Nurses voluntarily insert themselves into the lives of others when they are vulnerable and in need. My wife, as a CRNA, will cross paths with her patients when they are conscious or unconscious, aware or unaware, volunteering themselves or consenting through emergency. She is right there in the face of another persons precious human life, and she is eagerly saying “I will,” and she does. She makes herself responsible for the maintenance of biological human life to either stabilize the patient or maintain their life and safety while the rest of the team performs their responsibilities. Each person shuts off their entire life and all they care about for the sole purpose of life-giving, albeit to a stranger. It’s this part that seldom gets recognized.
My wife’s beautiful shoes.
My wife left her shoes at the garage door this morning after a 24 hour shift. She couldn’t wear them inside the house of course because they were dirty. You may think dirty as in mud, gravel, dirt, grime, sand, grass and water. You might not so readily think bone, blood, mucus, discharge, hair, skin, blood, medical tape, industrial protein disrupting solvents, blood, and blood. A 24 hour shift… 24 hours away from her new baby. 24 hours away from a husband that adores her. 24 hours away from a bathroom she can use when she wants to, not when her patients allow her to. 24 hours away from putting her feet up. 24 hours away from her dogs. 24 hours away from food. 24 hours away from clean clothes and privacy. 24 hours away from sleep. 24 hours away from her weekend. 24 hours away from the real world. This is in addition to her regular workweek. Are you built for that? Are you eager for that? If not, that’s okay, nurses are.
Point being… Look optimistically at the world because nurses are everywhere.
My wife IS just a nurse, and that is really and truly saying something special.
My wife is just a nurse, not for any other reason, but for you.
When you go into surgery, and before you fall asleep, the last thing you’ll see is my wife’s beautiful face. Then, what seems like a split second later you’ll awake, and the first thing you’ll see is her beautiful face again. In between those moments my wife will have suspended her entire life and taken sole responsibility for yours, putting her whole livelihood on the line. Not for a paycheck, but for you. Not for gratitude, but for you. Not for any other reason, but for you.