Mother and Nurse

Mother and Nurse

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Mother and Nurse

Enjoy what you can; endure what you must.


On a sunny mid-December day, my two children, Hunter and Caitlin, and I were broadsided at an intersection known for accidents, even fatalities. An elderly woman ran a stop sign, crashing into our car on the passenger side, where the children were seat-belted in. We spun twice in the road. The horn blared. The airbags deployed. Our lives changed in seconds.

Hunter, in the front seat, looked at me with panic in his eyes. Blood from cuts trickled down his face and arms. I moaned, “It’s okay, sweetie,” then looked in the backseat at Caitlin. My world crumbled. Blood poured from her chin and mouth; her beautiful strawberry blond head sagged motionless against the backseat.

I jumped from the car, screaming, “Caitlin, Caitlin!” No response. I ran to her side of the car and leaned over the crumpled door, through the broken glass. She was unconscious and not breathing. I begged God not to take her and to put my nursing knowledge and skills into action. Holding her neck, I started rescue breathing for what seemed like an eternity. Her blood filled my mouth with each breath. I kept praying and breathing, praying and breathing. I repositioned her jaw, and she started to cough and gag just as the EMS arrived on the scene.

“I tried . . . I breathed,” I cried to them. “I tried . . . ”

“You saved her life,” they said, guiding me away from the car.

I watched them work, sitting there on the ground, crying, praying, pleading with God. It was as if I were watching a movie, but the scene was real. A bystander called my husband at work to tell him the news. I can only imagine how he felt hearing the words, “Come. Now.”

We were all taken away in different ambulances to the same hospital. I kept begging them, “Just take Caitlin in a helicopter to a trauma center.”

“We need to stabilize her first in a closer hospital,” they repeated. Finally, later, she was airlifted, in very bad shape, with multiple severe, life-threatening injuries.

I was soon discharged, but not before an ED nurse gave me paperwork, a prescription for pain . . . and one of Caitlin’s front teeth.

We started for the hospital to be with Caitlin, but I felt like I had to go by our house to get a picture for the surgeons, and I had to change my clothes, stained with our daughter’s blood.

The floor was strewn with Christmas wrapping paper, bows, and tape. We left the house, and the ride seemed to take forever. My heart as a mother was broken, my poor baby was near death. My nurse’s head and heart kept hearing, apneic at the scene, unconscious, closed head injury.

Every mother’s worst nightmare was made even more traumatic since I was an OR nurse. Would I be able to give consent for organ donation? Would my husband agree? Could I bear to bury her in her little cheerleading uniform?

Thank God, we would never have to make those heart-wrenching decisions.

Caitlin remained in the pediatric ICU until January 3, giving us many scares throughout her stay there. She was transferred to the floor for another week, then to children’s rehab for an intensive, three-week therapy regimen. On February 5, she was discharged home for her brother’s thirteenth birthday . . . and Christmas.

I thank God that she’s the feisty, stoic, strong-willed, walking, talking, thirteen-year-old strawberry blond teenager that she is today. I’m also thankful to Him for fortifying me to perform as a nurse that fateful day.

A mother never thinks that after giving life to her child once through childbirth, there may come a time that she has a chance to do it again.

Mary Pennington

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