Sustained Me

Sustained Me

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Sustained Me

You will sustain him on his sickbed.

Psalm 41:3

You were present at my son’s birth. Cheering me on.
Telling me not to give up. Refusing to take a break.
Certain that my baby would be here any minute.
Your badge, “Registered Nurse,” was pinned fittingly
     over your heart.
A few hours later . . .
Still, you were there.
Things had taken a turn for the worse . . .
Vacuum extractor . . . forceps . . .
You held one of my hands while my husband held the
Our baby was born blue, deprived of oxygen.
How I longed to hear him make a sound.
A team of twenty-five assembled in the birthing room,
     there to give life to our child.
APGAR—one—not good.
I knew this, but refused to let it register.
Hot tears stung my face, but my baby had yet to cry.
Suctioning . . . establishing an airway.
How could one so tiny require the care of so many?
The team worked feverishly as our baby teetered
     precariously between life and death.
Finally . . . that first glorious cry! A sound I shall never
“Take a quick peek,” they said as they wheeled him off to
      the NICU.
“He’s in good hands,” you promised.
I knew it was all you could say.
It was the only thing you were sure of.
You comforted me while my husband accompanied our
     firstborn son to the nursery.
Several hours later, I caught my first glimpse of him . . .
     big, rosy, and beautiful
All nine pounds, six ounces of him stuffed into his
Attached to wires and tubes and needles.
There you were again, different in your appearance,
Yet somehow the same.
A different name on your badge, but the words
     “Registered Nurse,” positioned like your colleague’s,
     suitably over your heart.
You tended to his every need. You even tended to mine.
I held my baby for the first time . . . dressed in scrubs
     and gloves.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I choked back tears,
grateful that I could hold him.

A million thoughts ran through my head. What lies ahead for this child? Will there be learning disabilities, visual problems . . . or worse?

The “what-ifs” were too much to bear. But it didn’t matter. I loved him with a fierceness I could not describe.

“Get some rest,” you told me. “We’ll take good care of him here. We’ll ring your room if there are any problems.”

You snapped a Polaroid picture of him for me, his tiny fingers grasping my gloved hand.

I clung to that picture.
I fell asleep, clutching it to my heart.
Medical specialists and machines sustained my son’s life.
You sustained my spirit.

How, I wondered, does nursing school ever prepare someone for these things?

Then I realized that nursing school, despite everything it teaches you, could never really train you for this.

For this is truly the work of angels on earth.

Wendy Young

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