We’ve had a number of very sad and sobering deaths in our pediatric ICU as of late. Some were kids who were only just recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, who decompensated more quickly than anyone was prepared for. Some were kids who had been dealing with a chronic illness for years and were in their last days, and the parents made the excruciating decision to compassionately extubate, knowing this would be their final good-bye. They took place in the week just before the indescribably tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It was a heavy week to be both a mother of elementary-aged kids and a PICU nurse. When I heard about the shootings in Uvalde, I of course couldn’t help but think of the first responders and the medical staff at the local hospitals preparing to receive these mass casualities. Were some of them also parents of elementary-aged children, like me? How were they anticipating and processing these [potential] patients? Like so many, I felt such anger over it all. I imagined the possibility of this happening on my shift one day in this large city I work in, and I don’t want to be a superhero PICU nurse anticipating how to stuff my emotions if mass pediatric casualties come through our unit. I want the politicians with the power to prevent this, to snap out of their egos and the siren songs of the NRA, and find a heart to do what is good and right for the most vulnerable amongst us – our children.
As I considered once again the realities and the potential realities of what we see and do at work, I wrote this brief Facebook post after a hard day as Resource Nurse where we said good-bye to one beloved patient, tried our best to comfort his mother and young siblings, and dealt with other unusual crises in our unit:
What I saw today at work was people who said:
I will do things to take care of you that very few would have the stomach or courage to do.
I will stand with you in spaces that break all our hearts, but it is my privilege to be present with you here.
I will be courageous for you even when you are a little bit terrifying right now.
I will walk in a world with you that very few understand, and I will help you know you are not alone.
It is a bittersweet privilege to be a peds ICU nurse, and I am so proud of my colleagues today.