National Nurses’ Day: My Super Heros

On May 6 in America, we celebrate National Nurses Day. We are early — in Holland and elsewhere around the globe, Nurses’ Day will be celebrated on May 12. I am considering May 6 to be just the beginning of a week of honoring the women and men who carried me — literally and figuratively — out of harm’s way and into the beaming light of full health at OLVG – Oost, a wonderful hospital in Amsterdam.

I don’t have pictures of my ICU caregivers who brought me out of danger after a ruptured arterial artery – and pneumonia, kidney failure, pulmonary embolisms — nearly took me down. I know I was watched, lifted, monitored, and cared for intensely for six weeks. I know that, despite being marooned in a foreign country with me gravely ill, my husband, daughter, and sister were informed, cared for, counseled, and supported, all in excellent English and with great empathy. I also have the words of my ICU nurses which they inscribed in a diary that it is OLVG’s practice to give patients upon their release. Only later did I learn that this book, and the follow up visits an ICU emissary made to my bedside, were part of helping patients to surmount the psychological trauma that can linger long after an ICU stay.

You lost a lot of muscle strength in the last three weeks, but you work really hard to get it back. Keep up the good work!

Rose [May 27, finally off a respirator]

Today you got a pic line. I was there with you and you were scared so I held your hand. Your husband and daughter are here every day. They remain strong.

Emma.

In early June, the ICU was where I began to learn how to move again, and where three wonderful nurses took me on an adventure: getting in a (seated) shower. Ahhh, to feel that water after all those weeks!

When my medical condition stabilized and I was discharged to continue improving in another part of OLVG, was afraid to leave my caregivers. I’d come to count on having my own nurse. On 7A, they told me, I would have to share a nurse with other patients, pushing a call button if I needed help. Oh, boy, the ICU nurses had me practice that move for a couple of weeks. I had grown so weak that it took lots of repetitions to conquer that skill. It’s a good thing that I couldn’t see too far down the road, where myriad physical challenges waited. Sometimes, it’s better just to keep your head down and do what you can do, especially when you cannot even put one foot in front of the other.

But when I got to the Gastroenterology Unit on 7A, I was in the hands of amazing staff once again.

Tess

Andreas was on the late shift that first night when my call button fell out of my reach and my kind roommate summoned him; he helped me change into my own PJs and out of the blue hospital gown. “Blue isn’t your color!”

Mariella

My nurse Joke (pronounced Yo-kuh) — whose garden was her joy — told me to learn Dutch. Guusje printed out the numbers one to ten so I could count my reps in PT workouts.

Houda showed me pictures of her sister’s elaborate Moroccan wedding and told me about the henna designs on her hands. Noeska, Fleur, Hannah and Tess were my cheerleaders as I slowly grew stronger. Stacey was quick with wit, so I called her SmartAss (a high compliment, from one SA to another). Truida was patient and kind. Mariella, a serious tennis player, was a key supporter of my Physiotherapy sessions. Jaimey could lift me out of bed in one move, my Prince Charming.

I asked if they’d add to my ICU diary as my days at OLVG came to an end. It was like having a yearbook through which to remember. Here are a couple of the lovely well-wishes.

What a difference I have seen from someone barely able to lift a hand to someone who gets out of bed by herself. I’m super proud of you.

Fleur

No words can express how proud I am of you and your progress. Seeing you walk for the first time made me happy. I won’t forget you.

Tess
Fleur, Joke

Anne was a consistent source of reassurance throughout my six weeks on 7A, and became a true friend who I am in touch with (and who reads these posts so I know she’ll share this piece with her colleagues):

This experience, however horrible, will make you a stronger person for the rest of your life! It was a privilege to be able to witness part of your rehabilitation. Don’t set too high demands for yourself. You will GET THERE! I know you will!

Anne
Karen, on my Pelvic Floor Therapy graduation day!

I sent thirty-nine pairs of kooky palm tree socks to OLVG last fall as a thank-you gift.

American nurses held me up when I was able to fly back to the States at the end of July The nurses at University of Floridás Shands Hospital supported me for the week I was in Gainesville before coming home. Karen, the nurse practitioner in Palm Beach County who gave me my pelvic muscles back at the end of 2019, deserves a special recognition!

These amazing men and women are just some of the reason that I sit here today having fully recovered not just my health, but also my strength, along with treasuring the joy of life.

To think I could have missed all this!