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Thanksgiving Is Where the Heart Is

Thanksgiving Is Where the Heart Is

At this time of year, memories surface of what I call “nursing Thanksgivings.” That is, special or maybe not-so-special Thanksgiving holidays provided as a benefit of a 365/24/7 career path. Let’s see, I remember that time as a hospital Admin.  I had to come in and work a night shift, and the HVAC system decided to let us all freeze to death that night just because it was Thanksgiving. Or the Thanksgiving with unexpected family in town - whom I had not seen in several years - and I could not find anyone to work any of my 3 day 12-hour shift stretch. So, I had to work and miss out on visiting with family I really wanted to see. My heart was dying but I put on a brave face. Because I had to.

But then there’s the fun side of working holidays together…because we nurses are capable of “taking lemons and making lemonade.” Like when the work crew get together and decide to make Thanksgiving week a lot of fun with contests and potlucks, special treats, in spite of high census and wishing we could be with family, or anywhere, really, except work over the holidays. I will have to say, nurse camaraderie got me through some really tough times – even had me laughing on multiple occasions. All this in spite of….

One of my favorite memories is from my years as a home health nurse. On my caseload was a special patient who lived with end stage COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and a serious autoimmune disorder. She had to use a Trilogy home ventilator to live and suffered from high level chronic pain. In spite of her discomfort, she had a strong will to live and enjoy life. She turned to me more and more, as her condition further deteriorated, for adaptations and devices in the home to maintain quality of life. Her pet potbellied pig had a home in the large bathroom shower next to her room. He brought her so much comfort. She found a stool on rollers she could sit on and wheel herself around her room to reach the little kitchen family had set up for her or her computer desk. She got so much mileage out of that little red stool, as we called it. When I visited, we would share a cup of tea. One day, she suggested we celebrate with her favorite pie, lemon meringue, and use her new metal straws to enjoy a juice drink. As I think of this special person – someone I had the privilege of caring for – my eyes fill with tears.

I have always said my patients have taught me a lot, and that I’m a richer person for having had this privilege. This particular client is on the top of the list of those who have dramatically impacted my nurse life, especially in the area of “all this in spite of….”, making lemonade from lemons, turning the sour into sweet, the unpleasant into pleasant, “living well in spite of.” As Thanksgiving 2023 approaches, I find my heart is thankful for the many opportunities nursing has brought my way, encountering and working with individuals with lives well lived in spite of, lives of “thankfulness in spite of,” “living life to the max in spite of.”

This Thanksgiving, I am reflecting on how truly grateful I am for the privilege of a lifetime as a nurse. I say thank you Nursing - for giving me a far richer life than I could have imagined, and sometimes “in spite of….”

Signed, A Grateful Nurse (“in spite of….”)

Posted: 11/13/2023
Updated: 11/13/2023 by Dr. Ruth L.M. Burkhart, DNP, MA, RN-BC, LPCC
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