94: Heart to Heart Talk

94: Heart to Heart Talk

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Heart to Heart Talk

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

After having two healthy children and handling earaches and colic, I thought I had motherhood down. Then our third child came into the world. Ashley was born with several life threatening heart complications. As our pediatrician examined her, his doctor-like grunts and groans struck fear in my heart. When he told me to call my husband and take our baby five hours north to see specialists, we left immediately.

We arrived late in the evening at the University Hospital where a group of cardiologists waited for us. After asking me a multitude of questions, they whisked my fragile daughter away to prep her for an emergency heart surgery. I began pacing in the waiting room when a kind-faced nurse named Alice approached me. She gently placed her hand on my shoulder, and then patiently proceeded to tell me everything that was happening with our baby and what to expect for the next few days. Her confidence and compassion helped calm my worried heart.

Watching my helpless infant struggle in pain and being unable to comfort her was hard to bear. The doctors were capable, the surgeons were skilled, but the nurses were the ones who held me together and gave my daughter the nurturing I couldn’t.

After the operation, when the surgeons came for their regular rounds, they made it obvious Ashley wasn’t responding well. She was covered in cords and wires leading to screens that revealed numbers that did not look good for her recovery. The surgeons recommended some medication, but all I could think of was how much I wanted to hold my baby in my arms. I felt she needed that as much as I did.

After the surgeons left the room, it was as if this astute nurse was reading my mind. “It will take some time to get the order in for the medication,” Alice informed me. “In the meantime, let’s try this.”

Then she scooped Ashley up in one arm, and in one smooth movement used her other arm to wrap half a dozen leads and cords in a circular motion around my baby. Then she handed the bundle to me… cords, blanket, baby and all.

“Now, Mom,” she addressed me, “cuddle and nurse her and let’s watch those numbers stabilize on the monitor.” Alice was right. We both watched as Ashley’s numbers normalized. She was out of cardiac recovery and in a regular hospital room within hours. “Nothing like a mother’s love to give a baby what she needs,” Alice commented with a smile.

The caring nurse continued with her helpful insight and compassionate care while Ashley slowly recovered. As I was preparing to take her home, Alice walked me through the steps to care for my fragile post-operative newborn. When she finished her instructions, she sat down on the edge of the bed, looked me in the eye and said, “You have to be very careful not to create a cardiac cripple.” Her sober tone caught me off guard.

Reading my expression, she went on to explain. “You are going to want to hover over her and keep her from doing things because you are worried that she is too fragile.”

“That’s exactly what I plan to do,” I blurted. “I’ve just spent the last ten days watching this delicate baby cling to life and I have every intention of walking out of here and protecting her from anything and everything, even if it means her foot never touches the ground for as long as she lives!” I tried not to cry as her words of truth broke down my fearful exterior.

“I know,” said the wise nurse. “I can see it in your face. As hard as it will be to resist the urge, you can’t hover. You have to let her regulate herself so she won’t grow up weak and helpless. She’ll know what her limits are. Let her govern her own activity. With all she has to deal with for the rest of her life, she needs to feel as strong as possible.”

Alice’s words were profound. I have referred to that conversation more times than I can count in my daughter’s life. That’s why Ashley is a twenty-nine-year-old strong, confident, and capable young woman today.

~Linda Newton

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