to say goodbye

Try to imagine dedicating 41+ years of your life caring for the tiniest, but mightiest of humans. Think of all those babies. Remember all the moms whom you hugged with tears of joy…and sometimes tears of sorrow. Recall all the brand new daddies you guided and reassured as they gently diapered their babies for the very first time…and they survived, the daddies, just like you told them they would.

Look around and see some of the nurses (literally generations represented) whom you have trained, encouraged, led and worked tirelessly side by side with…including me. We met at a March of Dimes planning meeting, You representing the NICU where you worked and me the NICU Mom representative. You introduced yourself to me immediately and scarcely ten minutes into our introductions and conversation, I was invited to consider working in your NICU. I think that it would be a good fit for you and for us, you encouraged me. That was more than ten years ago and here we are today.

Here we are today with  you teaching us all how to say goodbye as you begin the next great adventure that is your remarkable life.

Happy retirement and onward dear Kathy G.!

the adventure science

It’s Fall Break y’all which, here under The Big Top, means adventure time and because it literally only took me FIVE tries to have a kid who likes wandering aimlessly around a museum; we are off to explore…

Explore SCIENCE! Science because someone is really digging 8th grade Science making things move and soon, blowing stuff up – code for setting off rockets.

I kind of like science, Mom. I like it a lot. 

He tells me this often.

Literally every time we sit down to work on science homework.

The Tech Studio where we begin and create with high school students from Japan and help them practice their English language skills.

The view from space

Embrace Baby Warmer Yeah, this meant a lot to both of us because ex-micropreemie, NICU grad, NICU mom, NICU nurse.

Engineer multi-colored bacteria, like a boss…yes, he wanted to immediately wash his hands after admiring his handiwork.

Equipped with his five senses, man explores his universe around him and calls the adventure Science. ~ Edwin Powell Hubble

It’s an adventure…an exhausting adventure.

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.


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