I recently saw a powerful video about an amazing nurse who is a foster mother to children dying of cancer. She lovingly cared for them no matter the circumstance, the difficulties, or the heartbreak that came with each and every death of one of these precious children. It broke my heart to see and hear. It caused me to reflect on how fortunate we are to have people with hearts much like hers, physicians, and nurses alike. It was a special reminder of what a unique and privileged opportunity we have to care for those in the last days or weeks of their life. This time can be heart-breaking, but it can be soul healing as well.
When asked how she could continue to love and care for these children, all of whom die, she said one of the most moving things I have ever heard:
“We invest deeply, and we ache terribly when these kids die, but our hearts are like stained-glass windows. These windows are made of broken glass which has been forged back together, and those windows are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken.”
Hearts like “stained-glass windows,” made of broken glass, forged back together, only to be even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken! Does this not speak to the essence of why we do what we do but also the price we pay as nurses and physicians, as human beings, for being willing to do so? Nurses understand this because they are the ones who spend the most time caring for our patients, ministering to their every need no matter how difficult it may be. Physicians understand because they have the ultimate responsibility for every patient and bear the burden that goes with that responsibility.
To all the physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and support staff, I say thank you. Thank you for having hearts that, with time have become more and more like “stained-glass windows,” broken all too often only to be forged back together, stronger, and more beautiful than ever. You are the “heart” of medicine. You selflessly and tirelessly care for those who are sick and suffering and afraid and alone and frightened. In their time of greatest need, you are their hope-giver. But when all else fails, you do the only thing left to do, you give of yourself but at the cost of this “stained-glass window.” It is a heavy price to pay, but you are stronger and more beautiful for having done so. Thank you for the many sacrifices you make every day. Thank you for the difference you make in every patient.
Andy Lamb is an internal medicine physician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com