summer readings

Read any good books lately?

My summer reading goals began earnest enough.

Goals are good and yes, I had them right here on my nightstand.

I wish I could tell you that I read them all. What can I say, life, family, work, moving often got in the way. And one book too.

Four months ago, at our Disaster Planning Committee meeting, I was asked if I had ever read Five Days At Memorial.

No.

You should. You need to read this book.

And so I added it to the pile of books to read for the summer of 2016.

So much in Sheri Fink’s 486+ page account is already known about what happened and what went absolutely wrong leading up to, during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Most of us can pretty much agree it was an all around fuck up with pretty much any government official, agency, response team at all levels responsible for the massive fail to the people in and around New Orleans 11 years ago this week. Fink’s book reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center (now known as Oschner Baptist).and draws you into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.

For me, this was at times a very difficult read. I cheered for the nurses, the doctors, the family members, the patients. I especially cheered for Dr. Gershanik who cradled 24 weeker, Baby S, handbagging him trying to mimic an oscillator ventilator and the un-named nurse who tucked another tiny baby inside her bra as they were the last preemies to be transported out of Memorial on August 30 (page 93) But as the flood waters continued to rise and critical patients trapped began to die, I became very frustrated with the poor planning at all levels from the bedside to the corporate level that was happening at Memorial.

Yes, I had to close the book and find something else to do like searching for images of meowls because as creepy as they are, they are kind of cool too and a very much welcome distraction.

Five Days At Memorial is absolutely, positively an indictment of the poorest of disaster planning in healthcare. History of this hospital proved that they should have been better prepared even if government agencies and their own corporate owners miles away in Texas were not able to support them better…and they should have supported them better because people died unnecessarily in the absolute worst conditions…in America.

In the aftermath of Katrina and the rebuilding of some of New Orleans, Fink details the investigation of what happened at Memorial and the way that some patients died there during those five days. Again more outrage for me and the closing of the book and walking away…especially after the account provided by Memorial CFO Curtis Dosch and COO Sean Fowler who casually mentioned that the cancer institute connected to Memorial via sky bridges has a working generator and electricity throughout the disaster. Hospital executives went there to make phone calls and coffee…and watching TV for a bit. (page 320). Yes, that happened.

Five Days At Memorial digs deep into it all and so much more touching on years later with the response in New Orleans to Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy in New York City at NYU Langone Medical Center…yes, that amazing, heroic evacuation that is revealed could have likely been avoided had a better disaster plan been in place!

In the end the takeaway is that dramatic scenes like this do not occur often…but terrible triage conundrums can arise anywhere, at any time  and that they have the power to change lives irrevocably. Across the country many hospitals in flood zones have electrical backup power systems in their basement. Others, in earthquake zones, were constructed before modern building codes. Others are simply situated in Tornado Alley. To the extent that protections and plans have been put into place since Katrina and Sandy and Joplin, Missouri have shown them to be inadequate or misguided. Life and death in the immediate aftermath of a crisis most often depends on the preparedness, performance, and decision making of the individuals on the scene because disaster planning and preparedness in healthcare is so much more than fire drills.

And now, at last, I can sit down and read Hamilton!

mourning, but with all the hope

I know that I am not the only one crying and screaming on the inside what the actual fuck right now.

Baton Rouge…Alton Sterling…”he should have just complied”…Falcon Heights…Philando Castile…”but he complied; he followed the officer’s orders”…Black Lives Matter…Dallas…Dallas PD…Ballwin…Ballwin PD…Blue Lives Matter…“All Lives Matter”…

I can’t. I just can’t.

Moments that words don’t reach; suffering too terrible to name. And in these moments this week I just want to hold the ones I love the most as tight as I can and push away the unimaginable. All of it. But I can’t. I just can’t.

I am at work and I distract myself with work. I walk into the break room and one of the news channels is on. It’s not Fox News…THANK YOU…but I just can’t. I distract myself with work, with my patients’ conditions and parents’ bedside vigils because I just can’t imagine.

Coffee is delivered by my current favorite child, and I give thanks for the happy distraction it brings.

It’s the little things. Acts of kindness. Warm hugs. Parents holding their precious new babies as close as they can taking in all the promises of future hope that they represent. Moments that words don’t reach; grace too powerful to understand. My heart hurts right now. The hearts of most everyone else I know hurt right now. Sad, mad, all the outrage, all the helplessness, all the tears and fears are happening right now and I know that I am not alone. But through the night at work last night there was for me a promise of hope that no matter how small is potentially powerful enough to rise above the unimaginable. I’m keeping that hope close to my heart and last night, all night, and today, right now I am happy for the tiny warmth it radiates deep within my broken heart.

A baby is god’s opinion that the world should go on.

Carl Sandburg

life doesn’t discriminate

Every nurse has their favorites. Every NICU nurse has their favorite patients whom they never forget. The babies, their mommas, dads, grandparents, siblings touch us in some way that they are a part of our heart forever regardless of the outcome.

I have mine.

Last night I learned that one of my favorites passed away suddenly earlier this week. Nicholas was 21 years old. Born 21 years ago, Nick was premature with a host of medical problems. He spent more than ten months in the NICU. I was privileged to be one of his primary nurses during those months. I loved Nicholas. I grew to love his parents and respect their unconditional passion for their son even if it sometimes exhausted me. I won’t lie, I grew to absolutely hate Kenny Loggins’ Return to Pooh Corner cd as it literally was the only thing to soothe baby Nicholas during some of his more difficult nights in the NICU. I hated it but I was more than willing to play it on a continuous loop because it was all about this tiny mighty human, Nicholas. He never spoke, he never went to school, never dated or got a license or any other number of so called life events. But his was a full life, filled with love for others, and loved in return. He taught all of us who were privileged to know him the gift of the spirit that comes from forgetting one’s self and serving others truly in need. His presence made us more selfless, more compassionate and more kind. Above all, Nick and his family showed us all the value of fighting for those we love. Because of Nick’s indomitable will and his parents willingness to sacrifice so much and put faith in God, the baby who was supposed to die in five days was a blessing to our lives for over 2 decades. Nicholas death was unexpected and sudden but his mother told me it was peaceful, at home and in the arms of his father.

My heart was broken last night and I cried and I let my son hug me in the comforting way that only he can.

Then this morning I woke to the news from Orlando, as we all have. An act of terror, an act of hate, an act at the hand of an American citizen who, thanks to his blessed Second Amendment right, took away the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of many in a crowded nightclub. At this moment fifty are dead and at least fifty are injured. The President and media are calling it an act of terror and an act of hate…BECAUSE ANY MASS SHOOTING REGARDLESS OF THE MOTIVE AND THE SHOOTER AND THE VICTIMS IS AN ACT OF TERROR AND AN ACT OF HATE! Early this morning fifty sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, lovers, spouses and friends died in an act of terror and an act of hate at the hand of a person filled with hatred armed with a hand gun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship or a movie theater or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

And my heart shatters. As the President speaks for the FIFTEENTH time in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, I hug my son in a way where I want to protect him from this kind of hate, this kind of terror, this kind of violence.

Life doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep living anyway

We rise and we fall and we break

And we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive

When so many have died

Then I’m willing to

Wait for it.

~ Wait For It, Hamilton ~ Lin Manuel Miranda

 

honor rolls, awards, celebrations and other end of year shenanigans

Because moving and unpacking and all the fun and games and all the snafus that go with that can’t possibly be enough going on here under the new Big Top we have…

Relax, it’s not like we have a graduation to celebrate going on. Still there is a lot going on that is the very last week of 7th grade and it seems none of it really involves much formal learning. It’s okay. It’s the last week of school y’all and for that students, parents and educators are celebrating.

So here we are, Jodie and I, taking a break from unpacking and online summer classes and nightshift nurse life work prep, lined up with all the rest of family and friends waiting to attend the 7th and 8th grade end of year honor roll and awards assembly at Daniel’s school. I make good use of my wait time scrolling through my Instagram feed. In the background I am aware of the first world problems that is one 8th grade mom VERY upset because her precious snowflake is missing Perfect Attendance award pins from 4th, 5th and 6th grades and she knows that they have not been lost or misplaced, her son never received them and he is going to need them by TOMORROW because it is 8th grade graduation and these pins must be firmly affixed to his graduation gown as he walks across the stage. By now everyone in the school office is aware of this problem and just how serious it is as the office secretary tries to explain there is little she can do to fix this even if the mom has all of her child’s 4th, 5th and 6th grade report cards to prove he had perfect attendance.

The waiting is that tedious that most of us are caught up in the drama-trauma happening…will this mother’s precious snowflake receive his perfect attendance pins that will carry him on to the promise of many future successes in high school, college and beyond; or will there be heartbreak followed by a downward spiral into abject failure if those three pins aren’t affixed to his 8th grade graduation gown because this is the ONLY time that he will ever graduate from 8th grade.

Jodie might have audibly sighed and rolled her eyes.

I definitely snickered.

I blame my dear friend Kerri because this popped up in my Instagram feed.

For every kid who is not gonna get an end of year certificate for “Best” anything… For every parent who is getting to the end of the school year with barely one tiny thread of sanity left… For every teacher who got hit with extra credit requests from students who did no work and yelled at by Tiger Mamas… For every admin trying to get grades posted, custodian trying to get the building clean and PTA President trying to get the final budget done…
Good Job! *High Five* from this little squirrel. I don’t know why, but that’s just funny.

It’s totally Kerri’s fault. But yes, high five and hats off especially to the wonderful, hardworking teachers, administrators and support staff at my son’s school who must survive all the shenanigans that the final days of school bring especially from the parents of all of the precious snowflakes. I just can’t imagine but then again here I am waiting to attend the end of year awards’ assembly where my own favorite son will be recognized for all of his hard work this year, his 7th grade year.

Honor roll, it’s always a big deal; but even more so when you literally begin life weighing but one pound with less than 10% chance of survival it is a HUGE, big, fat, hairy deal of which your family makes no apology for celebrating every time. So proud of this favorite son of mine.

Apologies to first world problems 8th grade mom for perhaps judging you a little bit more than you deserved. Even more apologies in advance to all at son’s school for next year’s 8th grade graduation because another milestone seemingly impossible and unattainable those first weeks of life soon realized.

Yeah, I’m likely to be insufferable next year.

Forgive me.

Instead join me and celebrate this amazing, mighty human I call son.

 

 

closed to community

In the news:

STOCKTON — Dameron Hospital closed its Maternal Child Health service line Wednesday, ending more than 100 years of delivering babies, treating the sickest infants and caring for children up to age 14. In the process, 70 workers including nurses, respiratory therapists and others will lose their jobs.

Ten years ago, I was there. I lasted just one year.

Transitioning from the Bay Area where I grew from a newborn baby nurse to an experienced, skilled NICU nurse to practice in the Central Valley was most definitely an adventure for me in Stockton. I was not in Kansas…or the Bay Area…absolutely anymore. Still I learned much from some very talented, skilled people committed to provide the very best of care to the most vulnerable population in the Central Valley.

Dameron, for me, was not home; not where I should be, and I knew this so soon after I began there. But for the nurses, respiratory therapists and others…the 70 strong, the ones whom I did work with for a little more than one year, the ones devoted to the community, the city, Dameron Hospital was home. For almost all of them, Stockton was and is home. Because Stockton is their home, my former colleagues had a unique calling to care for and serve the sickest of babies…and laboring women …and children up to the age of 14 in a city 300,000 strong; a 300,000 strong city now with only one 366 bed hospital within her city limits to provide obstetrical, neonatal and pediatric acute care services. But last Wednesday, at a mandatory staff meeting, they were informed their department was shutting down in two days time.

Yesterday four new mothers and their newborns were discharged from Dameron Hospital in Stockton and that was that.

Done.