Posts Tagged ‘Health’

It’s been a while WordPress, it’s been a while. Where and how do I even start? I haven’t written anything for the last few years because there were a lot of changes in my life. But for those of you who might be wondering, I’m still a nurse! I moved to Germany last year to work in Elderly Care (I know right?! From Pedriatric to Maternity to Geriatric!).

There’s a lot of struggle working in a new environment, not to mention the language barrier that comes with it. I did study German for a year before coming here but there’s just still so many things to learn and so much to take in that I had no time to write anything. And I feel so sorry for myself (and for the readers, if you’re still there) for not being the usual motivated, inspired writer that I was. Even now, as I am typing these words, I feel like this article is already on a brink of disaster but please, please bear with me. I will revive myself, one word at a time, I promise.

February 7th 2016 was the day I landed on Frankfurt airport on a chilly Sunday morning. I completely underestimated the European weather, wearing only a blue knitted cardigan that was obviously meant for spring. Joke’s on me. But one year of living in Europe has made me realize that winter is actually the least of my worries.

So here I am, fast forward to a year later..a year that has taught me independence, strength, loneliness, and most of all, kindness. I stepped into the door of my new workplace filled with anxiety, hoping that my one year of learning German will not fail me. I greeted everyone with a smile because you can never go wrong with that. After all, first impressions matter when it comes to your first day at work, don’t you think? I spoke to everyone in a formal manner (German has formal & informal) to show respect and decorum, only to be changed after five minutes because it turns out I was making everyone uncomfortable. But I do still speak formally to my bosses and my patients. I blame it on my Asian roots.

Working as a nurse, you think, wherever you are it’s all the same — the theories, the knowledge, the skills. But even though I am an experienced nurse, I am humble enough to say that I don’t know everything. And when I’m not sure of something, I ask. I double check. I practice.

Yet what do I get in return? Belittling remarks like, “Haven’t you learned that in school?” “Did you not understand what I said?” “Don’t you know any knowledge about that?” “Sigh…”

But suck it up, I tell myself. You cannot expect everyone to understand you. There is no shame in asking questions, in wanting to learn and improve yourself. Never apologize for your shortcomings. Smile, be kind.

Nobody told me that working in Elderly Care is a lot like being in a psychiatric ward. Most of them are depressed, aggressive, disoriented. Mehr tot als lebendig (more dead than alive), as they would say in German. I’ve handled different kinds of patients in my entire nursing career, but the elderly has got to be the most challenging. It’s almost like taking care of a toddler, minus the cute part. I slowly see myself getting frustrated, angry, impatient.

But suck it up, I tell myself. You will grow old one day and wish someone was there to take good care of you. And when you reach that point in life, look back and remember how you patiently spoon fed Mr. Z for an hour or how you gathered up your Wonderwoman strength to turn Mrs. B side to side every 2 hours. “It wasn’t an easy job,” you would one day say. So smile, be kind.

In school, our mentors would always tell us that in order to become a successful nurse, one should have these three elements: Knowledge, Skills, Attitude. All three are of course important, but one bears more significance than the others. Working in a multi-racial institution, I met people who are impressively smart and capable. But sadly, not all of them has a heart. I am not a perfect nurse and I admit that I lack in many areas, but I have a lot of love to give. And in this profession, no amount of drug can cure the emptiness these patients are feeling when they’re almost at the end stage of their lives. Sometimes your presence is enough to make them feel okay. So the next time you see an elderly, please smile. Be kind.


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My first duty in the OB ward was a day I’ll never forget, thanks to you. Our night duty was supposed to be placid, irenic..free from strife; til you came along and derange everything.

This is not a resentment Rosalie, if that’s where you think this letter is heading. I do not want to add insult to injury for I know you’ve already suffered too much. When the DR nurse called upon your admission, the horrified look on our faces was indescribable.

Let’s dissect your diagnoses, shall we? Muriatic acid poisoning, 21 weeks pregnant. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to know that muriatic acid is a highly corrosive liquid not taken by mouth. I am perplexed as to who you were trying to kill. Was it yourself? Your baby? Or both of you? That was the mystery I wanted first to find out.

As soon as we received your admission, we transferred you to the bed nearest our station. With cases like yours, an hourly monitoring is critical which includes an hourly documentation of vital signs, IV flow, and urine/stool frequency. I have yet to discover the reasons for this malady. I know for every decision you make there is a story behind it. But first things first and I have to save your life. Yes, I have to save the life you wanted so much to end.

In between nursing intervention, I found out that this suicidal attempt happened three days before your hospital admission. I also found out that the baby you are carrying in your womb does not share the same DNA with your husband. I could only imagine your pain, Rosalie.  You wanted an easy way out but failed in finding your escape. You wanted your problems solved only to find out that taking one’s life is not a solution. If you’re going to ask me why drinking muriatic acid didn’t end your life abruptly, I have no concrete answer for that. Perhaps you have one more lesson to learn before you leave this world.

Throughout the shift, you were vomiting and excreting incessantly. More IV fluids were ordered to compensate for the fluid loss and a blood transfusion was added with urgency. You kept us alert and busy all night. Although we knew how poor your prognosis was, we did everything to keep you and your baby alive. That’s our job, Rosalie..to revive people even if they had given up on life.

You survived my shift, Rosalie..but died the next day. I realized that during the entire shift I had not exchanged conversations with you. All I remember was that your thoughts seemed too far away. Were you thinking of the three children you’d be leaving behind? I already felt sorry for them the moment I heard of their existence. But do you know who I truly feel sorry for, Rosalie? The little angel who died with you.

I could only wish for a different ending in this story, but not all stories end in beauty. You will never hear of this letter I wrote for you, but someone else in the same dilemma might.  May your mistake be a lesson for someone.

Rest in peace.

Sincerely yours,

Your OB nurse.

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“Baby out 1:50pm. It’s a girl,” echoed by the obstetrician who delivered you via C-section. I let out a sigh of relief when the last part of your body was pulled out gently by our medical team. But wait, maybe I was wrong in relinquishing that sigh sooner because I heard no cry and saw no movement from your body.

 And then there’s another problem. You are missing two of your limbs, Aryana. Perhaps a congenital anomaly uncommon to full term babies like you. But first things first, and that is your airway. I kept in mind that your breathing is my priority and the rest, we’ll just have to deal with later. Together with your neonatologist, we rushed you to the cord dressing area and established a clear airway for you. I rubbed your back, an intervention used to stimulate a cry from newborns. I wasn’t very successful with that. All I heard was grunting…but that was better than no cry at all.

“Ready for intubation,” said Dr. Tin. She was about to place the laryngoscope in your mouth when suddenly, you let out a laborious cry. It wasn’t blatant, but any cry from you would be very much acknowledged. Be proud Aryana, you just saved yourself from manual ventilation.

But the battle isn’t done yet. I now have to face the dilemma of your absent limbs. Yet what can I do? I am a  nurse, not a miracle worker. But rather than focus on what I am  incapable of doing, I turned to what I am empowered to do. I spoke with your father and shared with him your brief and honest situation. Of course it’s your doctor’s job on filling your family with pathologic explanation. The technicalities of your case are left to her, while my job is to provide your family with words of comfort. For me, that is an even harder task because anyone can explain the physiologic deficiency of your body, but to say “it’s going to be alright” to a family who’s already dismayed by the outurn of events is a crucial toil. Giving words of encouragement to them is like watering an already dead plant. Useless and disappointing.

But you are my priority Aryana, your family comes second. And as I am writing you this letter, you were already discharged from the hospital. I wish to tell you a lot of things,  but know that you are much too young to understand. I’ll say it anyway for I don’t want to let time pass with words left unsaid.

Baby Aryana, you are a gift from God. You are His masterpiece regardless of how you look like. What you lack doesn’t define who you are. You may not become a famous runway model, but maybe in time you’ll discover some talents with your hands. Perhaps become a painter, or a writer like me. The world is harsh, so be strong. Remember, you have to be brave with your life so others can be brave with theirs. Be an inspiration.

You are a blessing, Aryana. Please never forget that.

Sincerely yours,

Your NICU nurse.

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