All Dogs go to Heaven

Please allow me to tell you about my sweet, beautiful collie, Steffi… I adopted Stef when she was 5 years old after being a breeder and show dog in Connecticut. I found out about her from a friend at the Children’s Hospital where I used to work because one of the therapy dogs who frequently visited the pediatric patients was a beautiful collie named “Jump”. Jump’s owner knew of my love for collies (I had one as a child, Timmy) and she knew that Steffi was being retired from breeding after having 3 litters, and she needed a forever home. I could not refuse this beautiful girl. Her picture and “story” below is still proudly displayed on the website today:

Steph2

CH. RIVERRUN DREAMIN’ OUT LOUD

“Stephanie”

(CH.Fleur de Lis Secret Weapon ROM x
CH. Long Acre Riverrun Rampage)

2009 Collie Club of America Winners Bitch

Judge Loralee Runnels-Bergmann critique at the 2009 Collie Club of America:
“Riverrun Dreamin’ Out Loud is another “Great One”
“Beautiful head, lovely stop, eye and expression.”
“What a beautiful girl – she has it all!”
Stephanie finished her Championship with 4 specialty majors
and her exciting win at the National Specialty.
Thank you to Judges Loralee Runnels, Mike Esch, Patti Merrill and Mary Benedict.

Stephanie is enjoying her retirement with Debbie Aston of East Brunswick,  New Jersey.

 My Stef

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself”– Josh Billings
Stef was gentle and sweet; she was graceful and elegant. She couldn’t care less about a tennis ball or stuffed toy…she was far too refined. She enjoyed being the center of attention, being petted and brushed, and she was a big fan of cheese and pizza. She got along easily with every dog and person who ever crossed her path and I was so proud to share the story of how we came to find each other.
Sadly, she seemed to develop severe anxiety and dementia the past two years; after many visits to the vet and extensive testing to rule out a medical issue, she was placed on medications to reduce anxiety; first, we tried Valium, which only made her sleepy, and then, Prozac, which helped a little…until it didn’t. We changed her diet to help manage her incontinence, which was hit or miss. Eventually we just kept her calm, happy, and comfortable, and helped her manage her difficulties with vision and hearing. Many times I had to help her navigate out of a corner because she couldn’t find her way out. I waited for her to let me know when it was “time”. Her “good” days of being perky, playful, eating/drinking, and wanting to be petted and loved, were being measured against her “bad” days, when all she did was pace and sleep, pace and sleep, and not eat or drink. I could no longer ignore what was happening. And yet I was afraid to make that very final decision. What if she was going to have more “good” days? My beautiful pup, who could no longer walk without tripping, or stay awake for any extended amount of time, and who could barely see or hear, needed me to love her enough to make the right and hard decision to let her go. Today, she paced and she was anxious; she was breathing heavy and she broke my heart. Today, I held her and told her I loved her as she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge… until we meet again my beautiful girl.
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day” – John Grogan
Steffi
“Grief is the price we pay for love”- Queen Elizabeth II

The Power of Teams

Most nurses will tell you that they wouldn’t be able to get through their shift without the help and support of their colleagues. It is very difficult to safely care for patients without other able bodies to help you during an emergency, or consult with over a patient/medication/equipment issue, etc.  Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help; if you are unsure about something, or have any doubts, ask someone else (who knows just as much, or more, than you do) what they think. My advice is to always follow your gut instincts and question things that don’t sound or feel right. Nurses cannot work in silos; neither can nurse leaders. Working together can build stronger teams who are kinder, and who instinctually know how to help each other.

teamwork

 

Some days it can be hard to leave your work at the job, and you bring it home…you think about a difficult patient or situation, and how you could have handled it differently; you pray for a patient’s relief of pain, or hope that their condition improves during the next shift, and that he/she is still there when you return to work the next day…sometimes they are not. Yes, it can be hard to stop thinking about work, but it is important to try to do so for your own health and well-being. It can be equally hard, maybe even harder, to leave your personal life at home, and not bring it to work with you. We all have our “stuff” that we carry, be it a sick child or parent at home, family emergency, broken furnace, loss of a beloved pet, concern over our own health issues… we are only human, and it can be difficult to care for others when we are hurting inside. I have often found that it was during the most stressful times in my personal life where being at work was a welcome distraction, but not everyone can do that; we have to be self-aware to know when to ask for help… and when to take that mental health day. Patient safety is of utmost importance, and if you come to work not feeling well, or are so distracted that you forget to use best nursing practice, you are putting yourself, your license, and most importantly, your patients, at risk of harm. You are not alone; trust that your work family will understand and be supportive. That is what being a part of a team is all about.

compassion

 

It takes a team to successfully “get through” your shift… and that feeling when you see the next shift come in, looking (and smelling) all fresh and clean…ahhh, relief at last! The hand-off report, or as I like to call it, “tag,  you’re it”, is the final sign-off endorsement before you can clock out, and get back to your real life outside of work.

oprah new shift meme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On which truths would you stake your life?

I read an article from a recent Oprah magazine featuring an interview with late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel. Oprah asked Jimmy “On which truths would you stake your life?” (Winfrey, 2018). Predictably, he responded with a joke… something about never putting ketchup on hotdogs… but then he answered seriously “do unto others…”. The golden rule. Good one. But the question resonated with me more than the response because I feel so strongly about my convictions and truths that I have often gone toe-to-toe with people who, in my opinion, are just plain wrong. The answer to this huge question is uniquely personal to all of us, but I believe that it tells a lot about who we are, and why we do what we do, every single day. I also think that it is important to consider what we stand for, and what we don’t, from time-to-time to check in with our own moral compass.

enemies winston churchill

The truths that I would stake my own life on are simple. I believe that you should always try to do the right thing, even if it’s hard and people get mad at you. I believe in honesty, fairness, equality, human rights, and animal rights, and I will do my best to advocate for those in need when I feel that there is an infringement on those rights. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance (after that, it’s a crap shoot), and even though it can be difficult, it is both necessary and important, to forgive others who have hurt you. You have to do it for yourself, not for them.

I’ve definitely made mistakes that I wish I could change. Looking back, I thought that I did the best that I could at the time, but regrettably I could have done better. If I did, I think my life would be completely different than it is now. I could have been braver, trusted more, fought harder, or let go faster. Live and learn. I think that it is extremely important to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, and try to not live life with regret/guilt/shame…these things can haunt you forever if you allow them to; trust me, I know.

Last but not least, a final truth that I would stake my life on is this…I believe that all DOGS are gifts from God, and if they are vicious, it is (only) because they have been treated cruelly and inhumanly by a human(s). Dogs will never judge you for making mistakes, they won’t talk about you to others to sully your reputation; they are always happy to see you, and they jump and wag their tail every time you come home from a long work day, or even just a short walk to the mail box… it’s like having a daily welcome home party! And they always love us even if we are far from perfect.

So I ask you…on which truths would you stake your life?

stand up

 

Reference

Winfrey, O. (2018, April). A stand-up guy. Oprah Magazine, 19(4), pp 120-121.

Why I Pray

I start and end each day with a simple prayer, which I’ve done for as far back as I can remember. Some days I ask for strength to get through the long day ahead of me; other days, I ask for patience, or guidance in making decisions. I often do “off-the-cuff” casual prayers, because that’s the kind of relationship I have with the ‘Big Guy”; these are actually more like “pep talks” before I even step foot out of bed in the morning. Although in serious times, or when I am worried about something, I go old school with the classics and pray like the good Catholic girl that I was raised to be.

prayer

This morning, after a long, sleepless night of tossing and turning, I prayed for courage. I tried to mentally prepare myself to do something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for the last two months. I had to have an endometrial biopsy done, which really isn’t that big of a deal in the medical/surgical procedure scheme of things, but I was worried nonetheless. It hurt like hell, but I got through it… and so the waiting game begins…these results must be ok.

Each night, without fail, I say a prayer hoping to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I always try to do/be better. I think about what I should have done, or said, to make a difference. The day’s events play over in my head and sometimes do not shut off. On good days, I sleep well and feel content that I made good choices. Other nights, I think of things that I wish I had said, or not said, and just listened (better). I remind myself to listen more than I speak. I get into less trouble that way.

Accepting Disappointment and Moving On

I cringe when I think about all the time that I’ve wasted worrying about why /if someone doesn’t like me. In the age of social media, “likes” can easily be confused with a measurement of popularity, acceptance, or even love. I recently heard a song with the lyrics “how many likes is my life worth” (TCS, 2018), and it hit close to home because I have caught myself noticing who has “liked” my posts, and even more disturbing, who has not “liked” them; the silence speaks louder to me. I am (still) learning that it is really important, for the purpose of self-preservation, to not pay attention to the negativity, because if you allow yourself to believe that others’ opinions are more valid or valuable than your own, you risk becoming an active participant in the judging and minimization of one’s worth. That is a slippery slope of which I have been guilty.

Not long ago I held someone in such high regard that they were placed on the top of a virtual pedestal of whom I thought was “above” all others in my profession. It’s not fair or realistic to put someone in that place. It is literally a set-up for disappointment; no one can possibly live up to such expectations. Instead of blaming that person for my hurt and disappointment, I had to look at what my own role was in the broken relationship. While I am not responsible for what other people say or do, I am directly responsible for how I react/respond to people and situations. It is during the dark times when you find that your true friends will always shine a light in your direction.

Doing Your Best

All one can ask is that we do our best on any given day. Some days our best is a reach; we are tired and not as patient as we aspire to be. That’s Ok though; forgive yourself. No one can be “on” all the time.  Just remember that when you try your best, it is always “good enough”.

example not opinion

 

Reference:

The Chainsmokers. (2018). Sick boy. Retrieved from https://genius.com › C › The Chainsmokers

 

 

Nursing in Pediatric Rehabilitation

I currently work as a Nursing Supervisor at a magical place where FUN is a core value. The series of events that led me here involved a change in my career path due to the loss of my father, and the need to be closer to home to help my mother, who continues to fight her own lengthy battle with cancer. I firmly believe that we are often led to the place where we were meant to be. I am grateful to work for an organization that practices and leads with kindness and compassion.

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As a pediatric nurse who has primarily practiced in the acute care clinical setting, it has been an enlightening experience to enter the unique world of pediatric rehabilitation. This area of specialty focuses on infants and children (aged 0-21 years) to help improve the physically-limiting disabilities and illnesses, and support/elevate the child’s level of growth and development (ARN, 2016). The pediatric rehab nurse provides a high level of skilled nursing care that fosters recovery and/or adaptation techniques to maximize the child’s potential as they recover from an injury, surgery, congenital anomaly, or chronic illness (ARN, 2016). They are strong patient advocates that ensure each patient’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs are met. Rehab nurses are also teachers; they teach patients, families, and caregivers everything that they need to know (GT feeding, ventilator/tracheostomy care, suctioning, wound care, CPR, etc.) so that their child can (one day) return home.

Rehab nurses get to know their patients and families well because patients can remain in an inpatient rehab facility for a long period of time; often for several months. Rehab doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and patience. We celebrate the small victories, like tolerating weaning from the ventilator for extended periods of time, or slow decreases in morphine doses for infants who were born from a drug addicted mother.

The process for a patient who must re-learn how to walk, or how to manage/live with the reality of never walking again…or re-learn how to swallow, eat, and eventually speak, can be overwhelming and extremely challenging. It takes patience, dedication, and a lot of hope and faith. In the short time that I have been at my organization, I have seen remarkable success stories firsthand. Most recently, I witnessed a fifteen year old girl re-learn how to walk after sustaining a spinal cord injury from being hit by a car. I held my breath the first time I saw her walking toward me in the hallway with a huge smile on her face. She had worked so hard to free herself from the confines of her electronic wheelchair. Her success is celebrated and shared by all who participated in her recovery.  I am so proud to work at such a special place!

 

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. (2016). Pediatric rehabilitation nurse. Retrieved from https://rehabnurse.org

Auld Lang Syne

It is the last day of a really difficult year for my family and I, one which will never be forgotten to be certain. It has been a year of loss and pain, but also one of gratitude for the time that we had with my father, and with friends and family. So many amazing people were there for us during our time of grief, and I don’t think that I will ever be able to repay them…try as I may. Many have shared their losses with me as well, and the experience bonds us with heartfelt compassion and empathy. For them, I am thankful.

But the hits keep coming… just yesterday I received news about the loss of a close friend of over 30 years, Ann Marie. Her passing was sudden and unpredictable; shocking really.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the “pros & cons” of cancer…some disagreed with me because they didn’t understand that there was anything “good” about such a terrible disease. But I believe it to be true, especially now :

The gift of cancer is that it gives us time to prepare, to let the inevitable sink in. It allows us the opportunity to go down fighting; to try everything that is available, from research studies, to proven protocols. Mostly, it gives us the gift of hope. And when we can see that the hope is fading, and our arsenal of medications are no longer working, it gives us the gift of saying a proper good-bye; saying what needs to be said before it’s too late. The closure that it can bring is the only thing that makes it bearable.

Traumatic, sudden accidents or events, such as a heart attack, 9/11, or a car accident, do not give you closure; death is unexpected. No one can possibly be prepared. There are no “good-byes” or “I love you”, or “I’m sorry”…. there are regrets. And to me, that is even worse than a prolonged battle with cancer.

We were great college friends; exhausted nursing students suffering through our exams and clinicals, but still finding time to have fun, dance, and laugh. I would have never gotten through our Psych rotation without her! She loved mental patients, that’s for sure (and I say that with the utmost respect of course)! She had a special way about her and she could literally talk to anyone and be genuinely interested and engaged. I envied that about her. She had a remarkable memory too…she remembered the craziest things about our adventures, most of which I had forgotten, or blocked out for my own sanity. She would randomly post an old photo of us on FB just because. Those memories were a surprise gift to remind us of the “good old days” and always brought a chuckle, if not a flash of regret for my fashion choices or tall hair (it was the 80’s, afterall). Below is our college graduation picture…Lisa, Ann Marie, and me. Great times.

Ann Marie Lisa and me college grad

We even worked in the same hospitals most of our careers, but I stayed in the world of Pediatrics, while she ventured into Nursing Research. We talked only a few weeks ago… she was checking in on me to see how Shea and I were doing coping with the loss of my Dad around the holidays. We only chatted for a short time, but even with both of our busy lives, she made the time to let me know that she was thinking about me. That was Ann Marie. She was a very special person. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a nurse, and a great friend to many.

She read every one of my blog posts and always left a kind word of encouragement to let me know how much she appreciated my writing. This blog post is for you… this is my way of saying good-bye. I hope you like it Am. You will never be forgotten my old friend.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?”. Never.

 

Blue Christmas

sad christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for those who have a light heart and jolly spirit… for others, it seems like work to wear a smile and “go through the motions” that most people expect during the holidays. This year everything feels different. It feels empty to me. I lost my Dad three months and 21 days ago and I have missed him every single day since. My Dad REALLY loved Christmas. Each year he tried to out-do the previous year. He would always leave a voice mail message on my daughter’s cell phone (even at the age of 24!) saying “Ho Ho Ho! Have you been a good girl this year Shea bird? Santa Claus is watching!”… and always with the warning that “if you’re not good, you’ll get coal in your stocking!” Shea still has last Christmas’ message from my Dad, her Pop-Pop, saved on her phone. It makes us laugh and cry at the same time.

I truly believe that my father knew that last year would be his last Christmas. He asked each one of us to think about something special that we wanted. Instinctually I knew that he was “preparing” and wanted his last gift to be memorable and to always serve as a visible reminder how much he loved us, and was always with us, even when he could no longer be. I chose a pair of earrings which I have worn every day since he gave them to me last Christmas Eve. I will treasure them always; they are a reminder of a Christmas past that will never, ever be the same.

As for this Christmas…I just want it to be over. It hurts too much. Thanksgiving was difficult…but Christmas is much harder. I recently found a Christmas ornament that symbolizes the loss of a loved one and says that this year “they will be spending Christmas with Jesus”. Did it help? No. It just made me cry.

I am receiving beautiful Christmas cards in the mail and I am struggling reading them all. I can’t seem to sit down and write out my own greeting cards. I am still grieving. I hope everyone understands.

This year, I am working on Christmas Day. It is ok though. The distraction will be good and I will not be able to withdraw into my own thoughts or sadness. It is a gift to be able to serve others and have a purpose. I will be spending the day with amazing people who selflessly work in a profession that no matter how much you give of yourself, you always receive more in return.

I know that I am not alone in my sadness this year. My friend Susan shared this song with me today and it expresses everything that I am feeling… everything that I was trying to say in my blog, but stumbled along the way with broken thoughts and memories. Susan knows the pain because she just lost her father yesterday… another friend just lost his beloved service dog last week… The thing about grief is that it is so overwhelmingly painful by itself, but going through it during a time that is supposed to be joyous and hopeful makes the sadness feel even more profound and lonely.

Merry Christmas in Heaven Dad. I miss you.