Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes!

Lots and lots and lots of stuff going on in my little head these days. Mostly about the career path I want to take and where each option leads me...or, ultimately, leads us. I have been putting off my Masters program for several reasons--length of time it will take to obtain my Masters (ugh...another 3.5 years of school?), finances (tack on another $50k or so in student loans...ouch!), and waiting to see what happens with Matt and OCFA (and things are looking up up up!)

I've always been interested in nursing. When my grandma was diagnosed with ALS in 2001, I moved back home from college to help my mom and grandpa take care of her. I spent the next 6 months taking shifts with my mom & grandpa, and, toward the end, the Hospice nurses. For the first few months, she was fairly self-reliant, minus being weak and falling occasionally. Then, it rapidly got worse. She was losing her ability to walk. To hold things. To stand up on her own. To utilize any of the muscles in her body. Her speech was slurring. She sounded drunk. I would accompany her to the grocery store (because my grandma was not one to let us do things for her if she had the tiniest chance of being able to do it herself) and the cashiers would say things to her like, "Ma'am, I can't understand you...what are you saying?" in a condescending tone. Some even made comments to "lay off the booze."

"BITCH!!!!!!" I wanted to scream. "She is DYING. She is losing the ability to walk, to talk, to communicate. In just a few more weeks, she is going to be confined to a hospital bed set up in her house. She will wear diapers that we have to change. She will no longer be able to speak at all. We will begin communicating with a special computer, but even that won't last long because the finger movements and the blowing into a straw to type out the words to communicate with us will be lost. Then the eye blinking--1 for yes, 2 for no--will last just a few weeks, because her ability to blink her eyes will vanish. We are having to clean the tracheostomy tubes several times a day now, because the mucus clogs it and she starts choking and cannnot breathe. Not that she's breathing on her own, anyway. Not since the day she started grasping at her neck, eyes widened, unable to breathe. The muscles used to breathe were atrophying. We had to call 911 and she was rushed to the ER, where she had a tracheotomy and we were told she would be on a mechanical ventilator until her body finally gave out. I have to shove the suction catheter down her throat for suctioning out any liquids, because as little as 2 teaspoons of liquid could cause her to drown. So don't tell her that she needs to lay off the booze. At least if she was on the booze, she'd have a chance of living. But she has ALS and she has NO chance of living must past the next few months, BITCH."

Is caring for a family member in that capacity the same as being a nurse? No. Not even close, and I realize that. With a family member, you do it because you just do. Because it's the right thing to do. Because you can't imagine not doing it. With a complete stranger, in a hospital, you do it because, sure, you made the choice to be there. But you do it because it's your job and you get paid to do it. Do I think I can cut it through nursing school? I don't know. The only reason I got my BA in Psychology is because I *knew* I was good at Psychology. There was absolutely no doubt in mind about doing well and being successful. The only reason I didn't pursue nursing school? Because I didn't have enough confidence in myself that I could hack it. I was too afraid of failing and looking like a fool. I wasn't sure that I was smart enough. But at this point in my life, I am confident in myself and in my intelligence. And while I don't know 100% that nursing is the right path for me, I'm willing to give it a shot. Because I know me. And once I start something, I don't give up on it.

5 comments:

  1. Very exciting!

    Just from helping out when I could when my grandma was living with the crazies, I realized I could never be a nurse, I just don't have it in me, so you, my dear, feel free to take my spot :)

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  2. welcome to the nursing path! That's the path I'm on... and the only one I have been truly passionate about all these years and just this past year fully decided to finally take seriously. But like you mentioned, its one of those fields you have to be completely ready for.
    Good luck with everything.

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  3. You just want to wear the cute scrubs ;) Totally kidding!

    I think 2009 is your year. Lots of changes. But definately in your favour!

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  4. Before forging forth into nursing school, it may be helpful to meet and talk with nurses who work in various settings. It might give you a greater picture of what you're signing up for, or what area of nursing most interests you.

    Personally, I could never do it. I'm not calm around medical emergencies (except for my own), and I don't handle bodily fluids well.

    However - when looking around for my grad program, meeting and talking with people who had the same desired career was so helpful! They were able to give me info about the job I could not have gotten elsewhere.

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  5. Sarah, you are an amazing woman and can do ANYTHING you put your mind to!

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