At the Bedside

MandyHEader

At the bedside, lives are changed. Not just the lives of patients and their families, but the lives of us caregivers, too.

As a pediatric nurse, my heart breaks for parents who are going through gut-wrenching, unimaginably difficult journeys with their children. Watching every breath, worried about what’s coming next, hoping for a cure, begging for a miracle.

My job is to love, love, love my patients and do everything I can to get them back to being kids. These kids are tethered to the hospital for much longer than our 12-hour shifts. They fight their battles 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and make decisions that show maturity beyond their years. They choose joy despite their circumstances. They tell jokes and sing from the top of their lungs, all while being poked and prodded. They are angels put here on earth to love us, make us stronger and put life into perspective.

As a nurse, you learn to walk into a room with wisdom, confidence, a heart that loves unconditionally and an eagerness to learn. Because at the end of every medical decision is a nurse at the bedside.

With every medication and difficult conversation, we also calm fears, dry tears, hold hands, hug mommies, shake the hands of brave daddies and say hi to SpongeBob and Dora. We’re proud to have stuffed hippos, pigs and dinosaurs named after us. By the end of some days, our scrubs look like we’ve been playing in dirt or running a marathon. And we couldn’t care less.

Beyond question or doubt, at the bedside is where my heart becomes full. It’s where I set up the bag mask, suction and epinephrine that fully prepared us for an emergency. It’s where I gave a bolus that brought a patient’s blood pressure back to life-sustaining levels at 2 a.m. It’s where I used an M&M to teach a 4-year-old how to swallow the pill her tiny body so desperately needed. It’s where I used a Lil Wayne app on my phone to show a 16-year-old boy that he still "looked good" bald. It’s where I held a mom’s hand as another nurse put down a feeding tube that would help her sweet child stay nourished.

It’s where conversations happen, eyes are looked into, hands are held, incredibly hard conversations are had and tears are cried. At the bedside is where I’ve been completely soaked with 60 cc syringes being used as water guns. It’s where I’ve heard all about the “love of her life” and looked at pages upon pages of his Facebook pictures. It’s where I laughed and cried with a mother and daughter as they shaved their heads together. It’s where I made signs and put up curtains to make her feel at home. It’s where he told me about a break-up, and I assured him that he shouldn’t fear rejection because he is loved, incredible and unforgettable. It’s where I stared straight into her eyes, with tears streaming down both of our cheeks, and reminded her of her worth and beauty. MandyEsmeNew As a nurse at the bedside, I feel beyond blessed. Words cannot describe what my heart feels when I am with my patients, when I get to be even the smallest part of their lives. I love, care and provide for them with all of who I am. Some days are really hard. You hold your breath and fight back tears. They create a knot in your throat but also carve a place in your heart. To my fellow nurses at the bedside: Never forget that we are the glue. We are the heart. We are crucial. Mandy cares for patients battling childhood cancer and blood disorders in our Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. We are so grateful to have her on our team.