There comes a day when keeping a secret becomes too heavy to hold and when you Let Go, you may find freedom. Today is that day, the day where trepidation, apprehension and worry can begin to subside. As an Integrative Nurse Coach, I ask my clients to be vulnerable and transparent, so I too, must role model this behavior. Some will judge and think less of me, but I take that chance, allowing my own personal truth to hold me high, and reminding myself, 'I am no better, and no less'. My hope is that in sharing my story, it will help another suffering soul because they are waiting to Let Go.
As a Nurse, we are taught to never make a mistake. Do things perfectly, or someone will become injured or worse, die. A mistake can cause death and is on the mind of any prudent Nurse, in every second of their work, in fact it's one of the biggest fears a Nurse faces. Truth be told... Nurses are human and we humans make mistakes. We don't intend to, and we are not malicious. We are careful, smart, cautious, educated, and present, but the healthcare system is not always set up to protect humans and (without intention to place blame), mistakes happen, and when they do, it is VERY difficult to 'Let Go'.
I was a Nurse-Student (circa 1993), working on a very busy Intermediate Step Down Unit. My patient Mrs. L. was a 66 year old woman, and a mom, daughter and wife who had just had a stroke (what is a stroke?). She could not move half of her body, and could not swallow food or water without choking, and because of this, she had a tube inserted through her nose that lead to her stomach for nutrition (NG tube). More importantly, one of the things I remember most, is that she smiled with beautiful, crooked lips, and although she had lost her ability to speak, her soulful, loving eyes communicated hopeful emotion. I cared for her like she was family, maybe because I was a good nurse, or maybe because my own Memere (grandma) had championed through about 12 strokes, and was one of the most spirited women I have known. Mrs. L.'s daughter Sharon was at her bedside offering help, a gentle touch, kindness and patience. I remember Sharon looking me straight in the eyes, instilling in me great confidence and trust, saying, "You will be a wonderful Nurse, Nicole".
Just before shift change, I came to give Mrs. L. some medications through her NG tube. Her daughter said, -and 25 years later, I remember vividly- "Nicole, Mom's NG tube looks different." I looked at Mrs. L and said, "No, it looks fine to me". I listened for placement, heard the air bubble over her belly, signifying it was in good position and squirted her prescribed medications through the tube. I had so many other things to do before I left, so I wished them a goodnight and left her room.
The Transgression, & why it's hard to let go
I returned the next day, excited to see Mrs. L's crooked grin, hopeful that her symptoms had resolved. The night Nurse told me Mrs. L. had worsened, with an X-ray confirming she had developed aspiration pneumonia. I was devastated. How could this have happened to Mrs. L?!! I felt saddened, which quickly turned to horror, for, after learning about causes of aspiration pneumonia, I realized that MY actions the night before may have caused her pneumonia! My heart light dampened, my mouth went dry, my throat closed and I fought back tears and absolute shame.
I flashed back to the end of shift... Sharon saying, "Mom's NG tube looks different", and how I dismissed it. It was then I realized, that Mrs L's NG tube had accidentally been pulled out of position and the medications I had given her had gone into her lungs instead of her stomach! But I had heard the air bubble- I did what I was supposed to do! I thought harder, and then recalled seeing the tape that should have held Mrs L's tube to her nose was at her chin level-and in my rush to 'do things' I hadn't seen it! In an instant my heart burst wide open. I was filled with self-disgust, loathing and horror at myself for my foolish, thoughtless and rushed mistake. How did I not see? I felt a deep sorrow and ugly shame in my heart for the pain and suffering Mrs. L. would endure and I can still feel it, right to my soul, even as I write this today.
What I have Learned, as I Let Go
The grace of Mrs. L's recovery allows me to forgive myself this transgression, and it has been difficult to do. I share this story with you, as a means of self-forgiveness and freedom, and often share it with new nurses as a learning tool. And to this day, I stop to listen carefully when someone says, "this looks different", or, "can you have a look at...", or, "Nicole, I'm sensing...", because if someone is asking a question, or has a concern, there is a reason. I also pause, look at my patients, or a situation and SEE. Most importantly, I now understand the value of listening to me, to hear my intuition and inner wisdom that always knows when something is amiss or if it feels right. I am a work in progress.
Honor Your Past, Let Go.
I often use the phrase, "Honor your past, it has made you who you are today", and now, I ask you to honor my story and find forgiveness in your heart for my past. As Florence Nightingale said, "How very little can be done under the spirit of fear", and so, I release the fear and allow freedom to enter into my soul to begin healing.
Perhaps this blog is selfish, because it is all about me, so now, I ask you, dear reader, what are you holding that could be Let Go? You have suffered enough.