The New Grad

The New Grad

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

The New Grad

Each person has an ideal, a hope, a dream which represents the soul. We must give to it the warmth of love, the light of understanding and the essence of encouragement.

Colby Dorr Dam

Startled by commotion, the young registered nurse, Janeen, entered the intensive care unit of Long Beach Memorial Hospital to begin her morning shift.

“What’s going on?” she exclaimed as she watched a doctor, nurse, and respiratory therapist working feverishly over a new patient.

Having only completed nursing school four months earlier and still considered a “new grad,” never before had she truly experienced such traumatic care in action.

The patient was a young female with an endotracheal tube connected to a ventilator, filled with fluid. Must be pulmonary edema, Janeen surmised. Wearing a neck collar, and in traction, the female’s legs were elevated. Her discolored feet stuck out from under the sheets, a sign of poor blood circulation.

The new grad’s attention was drawn to a middle-aged woman standing near the activity, appearing alone and helpless. With an overwhelmed and distraught countenance, the woman’s bright green eyes blurred with tears while she watched her daughter’s heart monitor. At once, a deep wave of sympathy swept over Janeen.

“What’s going on?” the young R.N. repeated. She learned the young woman had been run over by a Ford Ranger truck while bicycling. She had fractured 111 long bones; many short, flat, and irregular-shaped ones; her pelvis; and her cervical spine, which could result in paralysis. Tire tracks were still visible on her chest. Her heart’s papillary muscle was destroyed and her mitral valve was ripped almost entirely off. Her liver was severely lacerated.

When Janeen heard that the patient’s twenty-third birthday had just passed two weeks before, she thought, She’s only one month older than me. But, before her thoughts continued, she was interrupted by the yell, “Cardiac arrest!”

Orders were shouted. “Quick! Prep her for surgery.”

The heart surgeon approached the mother. “Sibylle,” he began, “we don’t think she’ll survive, but we’re sure she’ll die if we don’t try.”

Her tearful mother signed the consent.

As they transferred the young lady to the operating room, a priest gave her last rites.

Knowing that saving her would require a miracle, silently Janeen prayed, If You do miracles God, please let one be visible today.

After ten hours of surgery, doctors said it was a miracle. Now with a pig valve, the patient’s chest was too swollen to close so a transparent thin film covered it.

For the next few days, Janeen continued to pray.

One morning, her eyes widened as she read the female’s name among her list of assigned patients. She entered the room and introduced herself. “I’ll be your primary care nurse. I’ll take good care of you,” then, turning to the mother who had traveled far to sleep at her daughter’s bedside, she added, “and you.”

Unprepared for the shock of seeing the patient’s toes turn completely black, Janeen composed herself and continued to follow the orthopedic surgeon’s instructions to take her to hyperbaric twice daily for oxygen therapy. Hopefully they could stop the gangrene from traveling and prevent amputation.

Janeen felt sadness on the day the patient heard, “We have to amputate all ten toes.” But after surgery, she knew it was another miracle that the woman’s legs were saved.

Saving the rest of her entailed a total of seventeen more surgeries. Many times, she had come close to dying. Once, a yeast infection developed in her blood, nearly killing her. Twice her ventilator alarm sounded, signaling that she wasn’t receiving oxygen.

All of this brought unexpected emotions to the new grad. She worried the young lady would be forever dependent on the ventilator. All attempts to wean her off it had failed.

But again Janeen’s prayer was answered. One day a doctor was changing her tracheal tube and was unable to insert the new one. He exclaimed, “I can’t believe it, your incision has closed, and you’re breathing fine!”

Another celebration day arrived three months later when the patient was transferred from ICU to a recuperative unit.

Janeen promised the patient and her mother, “I’ll come to visit.” And she continued visiting when the patient began rehabilitation two weeks later.

After completing two more months of rehab, with her left leg one inch shorter than the right, the young woman finally hobbled out of Memorial Hospital. Now being called a “walking miracle,” she and Janeen kept in contact.

A few months later, Janeen was thrilled to have her former patient as a guest at her wedding.

Nine years passed, and again she was thrilled as she watched the “walking miracle” march down the aisle to also be wed.

At the reception, Janeen enjoyed visiting with Sibylle, this time for a joyous reason.

And to this day, as a writer and speaker, I’m still grateful that Janeen is my cherished friend! Through my nine more operations, Janeen has continued to be my prayer warrior and encourager.

Vanessa Bruce Ingold

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