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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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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On this particular morning, I woke up deciding to be my melancholic self.

Strange isn’t it? For we have been taught to wake up and pursue happiness each day, and here I am chasing the opposite. I don’t know what made me think this way. It’s probably my lack of plans for the day that had stirred me to be reflective for a little while.

For the past several months, my life has been trailing a get-up-and-go routine. I wake up at 5:30am, leave the house at 6:45am, and arrive just in time for work at the hospital. After 8 hours (and maybe even more) of taking care of sick children, post-partum mothers, and frail elderly…my energy inevitably reduces to nothing which makes it impossible for me to live a little after work. The next day, the same scene happens. But this post isn’t about my life as a nurse, or the lives of the patients I’ve tendered to. I have written no letters for my patients today. This day is for the people who took the time to write me letters of thanks, encouragements, and forgiveness.

On a specific corner of my dresser is a box that draws no particular attention. It has been there for as long as I could remember. What I couldn’t remember was the last time I opened it. And today, I felt the moment it has been waiting for finally arrived. 

Inside the box is a pocketful of memories. It consists of letters from high school friends (some I am no longer acquainted at present), college friends, family members, and even previous lovers. Some are not even letters. They were just post-it notes that have special messages on it. I kept it anyways because regardless of how short the messages were, I believe the person who wrote it put aside a precious time from his/her precious life to write it.

I couldn’t quite well recognize whose signature this is…good thing I know your handwriting too well, Aimee 😉

Yes, brother. I managed to stay single for the rest of my high school years, thanks to you.

The most adorable find in my memory box!

You are a true friend, Jannel! Lol.

Thank you for sending me one of the longest and most touching letter I have ever received :’)

You know you’re in trouble when the guidance counselor starts giving you letters like this.

Rummaging through the 194 letters made me wonder if I was able to write every one back. Was I able to return to them the same special feeling that I felt when they gave me the letter? My heart says “I hope I did,” but my brain thinks otherwise.

It has been a long, long time since I last received a letter. I guess technology snatched away that opportunity to make people feel they are somebody to someone. Reading the letters allowed me to feel an assortment of emotions I cannot even make sense of. It’s like laughing so hard yet tears start to gush from your eyes and you cannot tell apart if you’re sad or just extremely happy. And though I am thankful for technology for making it effortless to communicate with friends, I believe handwritten letters are still a novelty.

Some people are withdrawn to writing their special someone a letter. They are afraid that laying them all out in a piece of paper might diminish the true meaning of what they really feel. But I believe otherwise. I believe it is important to let people know you love them, or that you are sorry for what you did, while you still got a pen and paper on hand. The seasons may change and the years will surely go by, and the people who wrote the letters may not even stay the same, but the letters will remain true till the end of time.

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