Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mixed Blessing of Nursing

Today I find myself thinking of Nurse Phyllis - one of our best and worst nurses ever, who passed away last December. 

In the months before Acorn was decannulated, we all knew she was sick - the hacking cough was unmistakeably Bad News. Clearly not a respiratory illness, even someone without a medical background could tell there was something wrong...and Phyllis had been a nurse for a long time. Acorn was decannulated in August, and we heard in September or October that she was not doing well - the lung cancer we all suspected had metastasized, and was in her brain. About the time we moved Leaf to the other hospital (which happened late at night on the 23rd of December), we heard that Phyllis was gone. She passed peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by family, which was probably about the best anyone in her position could have hoped for.

Off and on I referred to Phyllis as Nurse Crankypants - and she was. Her personality was best described as abrasive. She was overly strict about everything, from how things were cleaned to where people left things and how people fed Acorn. She was extremely upset that we let Acorn play on the floor in the therapy waiting room because who knew what kinds of germs he'd get there? She made no bones about who she liked and who she didn't - you could depend on her to provide an unsolicited assessment of every doctor and therapist we saw.

And yet, for all that....Phyllis was an excellent nurse. An LPN who had first worked in the NICU, she knew complicated kids like no one's business. She knew death too - one of her own children had died in a car accident in his early teens - and she was adamant that it was not happening to anyone on her watch. Her assessment skills were top notch. And I know that I said more than once that if something was to go pear shaped, she was the nurse I hoped was on duty, because even more than Acorn's primary (who, I might add, is also Leaf's primary), Phyllis was the one person I trusted beyond anyone else to handle an emergency, without any questions, and without any missteps.

Beyond that, Acorn loved her. It was not an easy relationship in the beginning, but she was tough in a way that he really responded to.  When she first started here, many of our other nurses were sure that we'd hate her, that she'd be too hard on Acorn, that she wouldn't get him...but more than many others, she saw what he was capable of, not just what he let on.

What made me think of her today was Acorn's appointment with his PMR doctor (which was supposed to be yesterday, but the doctor cancelled, and then should have been today, but Acorn is sick, so now it's the day after Christmas). Our PMR appointments are usually on Mondays, and Monday was one of Phyllis' regular days, so she ended up going to almost all of them with us. She gushed in the car on the way home after that first appointment about how this particular doctor handled Acorn...and she didn't gush about anyone or anything. I was pretty pleased with this doctor as well, but it was nice to have her backing me up on that front - it meant it wasn't just my feeling of, "finally, someone who sees the problems I see and wants to do something about them," but that this doctor really is a special kind of guy.

I don't know how Phyllis and Leaf would have gotten along - Leaf is sensitive in ways Acorn never was, and probably never will be. Still, I think they would have figured something out.

I never thought I'd say this when we first met her, but Phyllis, you're greatly missed.

1 comment:

  1. That was really neat to read. It's very special when you can find a nurse you really connect with and who connects with your child. Thanks for sharing Nurse Phyllis with us.