It became a prison to me — impending doom.
I knew I had only three months left before I could retire. Three months isn’t long, but it is a lifetime away.
That long drive to work in that heavy highway traffic where there was always a collision. The anxiety of the drive knowing all along there was even more anxiety to come.
The patients that were involuntarily committed — forever schizophrenics and bipolar, usually non-compliant with their medications. That psychotic look in their eyes when we knew this was it. Another assault in the making.
You can feel the threat, the danger, the fear.
You can be surrounded by patient safety observers, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is fighting for their life.
The psychotic patient is fighting against his demons that he was never able to conquer, and the staff members that I work with were all holding onto their own universe of inner turmoil.
I long for my freedom. I’ve been a nurse since 1976. I yearn to breathe again with no agenda on my calendar. Only to wake up slowly each morning, give my dogs a kiss, have my two cups of coffee before Jack stands on my chest to let me know it’s time to take him for a walk, and before Lucy lets out her puppy growl. It’s a mandatory morning walk for these two.
But that’s OK.
I’ll visit my children, my manna from heaven.
I’ll give hugs to my granddaughters and pull out new books and toys for them, always feeling like their Mary Poppins.
I’ll watch movies; I’ll plan breakfasts and lunches with old nurse comrades.
What a journey.
From a shy redhead born into a house filled with stark black-haired siblings. A family filled with dysfunction. The underdog. The invisible one.
Wanting to be a journalist but was pushed out of the house to be a nurse.
The terror and fright of being a nurse to becoming totally entranced by ICU nursing with all of the intricacies of a body filled with multi-organ dysfunction. Watching each organ improve or deteriorate. Holding the hand of a newborn baby to holding the hand of a little lady gasping her last breath.
There is good and bad nursing management. The ones that cared about us as people versus the ones that treated us as a number as a threat to the “budget.”
I’ve worked in ER, surgery, ICU, surgical-trauma ICU, and behavioral health.
I’ve had three beautiful children in a sad, lonely, almost non-existent marriage.
There were years and years of trying to fix a marriage that was not fixable.
I’ve watched my husband ravaged by cancer until he let out his last breath.
I don’t know what’s in store for me on this last trot through life.
Many mistakes have been made.
But I can hold my head up high and say, “I tried!” — loud and clear.
Tomorrow may be lonely.
Tomorrow may be filled with quiet peace.
But I’ve earned my stripes to finally breathe again.
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