TENDING LIVES; NURSES ON THE MEDICAL FRONT
More than just a great read, TENDING LIVES; NURSES ON THE MEDICAL FRONT is a unique tribute to the profession of nursing. Within these 42 remarkable chapters, Heron captures the essence of nurses working in the many branches of the profession. Ranging from inspiring to poignant, tragic to outrageously funny, these true life medical dramas bring the realities of nursing to light.
Each story is fascinating in its range, rich detail and intensity. Many of the stories, such as a nurse caring for a young man with no hope of recovery, or the riveting testimony of five ER nurses who worked the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, or the nurse's account of caring for an abused infant, all express extraordinary compassion and give insight into the incredible individual who is the nurse.
On the humorous side, there is the hysterically funny account of a Hollywood set nurse who has to deal with a bunch of melodramatic egos, or the nurse working in an Alabama hospital for the criminally insane the night an inmate attempts to escape, or the New Orleans nurse who tries to convince a suicide survivor she's not dead, or the experienced nurse looking over the shoulder of a nervous intern performing his first pelvic exam.
There are the stories of heroism, like the burn unit nurse who is a burn survivor herself. Also there is the unusual - like the critical care RN who works in a hospital for injured and sick dolphins, or the RN called upon to prepare a prisoner for execution.
In the introduction, Heron sums up the profession in this way:
"Nursing is most certainly a world unto itself. Nurses are the nitty-gritty of hands-on people. Those who choose this profession are not the type who shrink from adversity; they are as frontline as frontline gets. They are compassionate healers and proven heroes - these are the nurses. Come, take a walk in their shoes."
EXCERPT FROM: TENDING LIVES; NURSES ON THE MEDICAL FRONT:
I busied myself with gathering the equipment needed for the treatment. I set about cleaning off the dinette table with alcohol and disposable towels from my med kit. I spread out a couple of sterile towels, on which I laid the nebulizer and the suction catheter. Twice I had to stop and, using the casing from a used syringe, push out roaches that were attempting to crawl inside my shoes.
After the nebulizer treatment, I turned on the suction, checked overhead to make sure the ceiling was clear, and donned sterile gloves.
Slowly threading the catheter into the tracheostomy tube, I went as far as I dared and applied the suction. I pulled back the catheter, vacuuming the insides of the tube for the mucus which had accumulated there and in his lungs.
Several dark specks went through the catheter and into the canister. Old blood. The report had said the infant's intubation was traumatic and there had been a problem in the past with blood clots. I gave Roberto a few puffs of extra oxygen with the ambu bag before I went down with the catheter a second time. When it came to kids' lungs, I was a fastidious housekeeper, so this time I pushed the tube a little further than before, wanting to get a good, deep suction.
I was rewarded with a large amount of mucus and a few more specks of old blood. As I was just about to pull the catheter all the way out, a clot that appeared larger than the rest, shot by.
Suddenly I was furious. I wanted to lash out at someone; at the day nurse for having left four hours early, and for not having done a thorough deep suctioning, at the adults for allowing such filth, at the parents for having and then not loving this child. Didn't they know, as human beings, that children could not thrive without nurturing? Couldn't someone see that this infant was dying from lack of love?
I closed my eyes and took a long, slow breath. When the anger passed into sadness and the sadness passed once again into resignation, I disconnected the catheter and cleared the tubing with sterile water.
In my notes I would have to describe the clot in detail, and knowing the pediatrician on the case, knew she would insist on a specimen. I opened the canister and started to unscrew the top off the spcimen cup, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the clot unfold like a tiny, blossoming flower. I swore at the overhead light and pulled out my penlight which I shined directly on the clot. Using a tongue blade, I fished around until I got ahold of it and slipped it into the specimen cup.
With the aid of my reading glasses and penlight, I made myself study the baby roach carefully. It was complete - all legs and antennaie accounted for. As much as I wanted to, I could not convince myself it was anything else...