I ♥ nurses

A tough year results in a newfound appreciation for nurses

Our cover feature in this week’s paper introduces readers to eight people in the local health-care field who often work in intense emergency situations. The list includes a doctor, an emergency medical technician, a couple of paramedics, and a few nurses.

And nurses, in my experience over the last year, are unsung heroes.

In February, my father had a heart attack. I didn’t have an opportunity to meet the doctor who performed the life-saving angioplasty, but I did meet, as I sat in his recovery room at Enloe Medical Center, some wonderful nurses who took care of him after the procedure. They were amazing. Kind and supportive. Every time I left my dad’s room, I felt like he was in good hands.

At the time, I had no idea I’d be spending so much time in hospitals in 2013.

Between spring and early fall, my toddler son, Henry, battled pneumonia three times. Twice we rushed to Enloe’s emergency room, where we were well taken care of by ER nurses, including the triage nurses who, realizing his fragile state on both of those occasions, whisked Henry into the care of excellent doctors.

This past fall, in efforts to resolve his chronic respiratory issues, Henry underwent two surgeries, the latter of which required him to spend the night at the hospital. His surgeon—an ear, nose and throat specialist—was great at easing the worries my husband and I had about the procedures: an adenoidectomy and a tonsillectomy.

And then there was the aftercare we received during his hospital stay. I say we because it became clear to me that, as an extension of our son, my husband and I were affected by the care he received.

All of the nurses who looked after Henry were pros, but pediatrics nurse Molly Rudgers was a blessing. She kept his mother (a reporter with an insatiable curiosity) apprised of everything she did to care for him. That included explaining why the alarms he was hooked up to beeped, as well as, say, what types of medications he was being given and what sort of side effects they might have. If she was annoyed by my motherly inquisitiveness, she never let on. I’m nowhere near being a “hugger,” but when Molly walked the three of us out of the hospital, I couldn’t help myself.

More recently, in early December, my stepfather, Rick, had a brain aneurism. He was flown by helicopter to Enloe and then to UCSF Medical Center. There, he underwent surgery to repair the broken blood vessel. The intensive-care unit was his home for weeks before he was stable enough to be transported to a rehabilitation facility. I was with my mom for the first few days of his care, a rollercoaster period during which, at times, the situation appeared very dire. He was one of the lucky ones and, as I write this column, is headed back to his real home.

In that situation, too, we turned to nurses for guidance and support—for Rick and for us. There’s a saying that goes, “Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes.” I believe it.