Thursday, December 11, 2014

Larger than Life

  Humans. By definition we have limits and imperfections. We learn at a very early age to accept those. We jump off of a chair and are unable to fly. We try to show our love for our mother and end up breaking something in the process. Acceptance of our limits is a great thing, but then we take the next step-growing to become better and stronger and closer to "perfect".

  Some things are truly impossible due to the laws of nature, however there are
ways around them. Wilbur and Orville Wright decided to take the failed attempts of many and create a way to fly in a world where flying was only a child's dream. Neither man possessed a high school diploma and in a world where they were expected to marry and start a family at an early age, both found themselves working a dead-end printing job in their hometown and with Wilbur caring for his terminally ill mother. Both men had faith in God and demonstrated their faith in their lives. A quote from C.S. Rolls, co-founder of the Rolls-Royce Motor Co describes the brothers,
"They have lived through continual accusations of bluff, through disbelief and ridicule, and have been unaffected. Now they have seen the sudden turn of popular opinion and have sprung to fame; but they are still equally unaffected, pursuing their daily work with their own hands in their own quiet way."
As we now experience, their experiment worked and they are credited with making the first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air human flight.

  Although it is hard to imagine a world where a light bulb is unimaginable and an airplane is science fiction or where the world was considered flat, but it was once so. In this world, you can chose to conform to the popular opinion, or you can believe in something and Someone larger than this life! Sure you could call it being a dreamer, but there are too many intricacies in nature for me to believe that this world is all there is to my life. When I die, whether I am deemed successful by the masses or a complete failure, I want to live as the Wright brothers were described, "through disbelief and ridicule, and unaffected". I'm not implying that I would like to be an oddity just because, however to believe in and live your life intentionally with the knowledge of the purpose of glorifying God will make you appear odd. Many will ask you questions and when you attempt to explain your purpose, most will shake their heads and write you off as crazy. Don't get discouraged. I remember a patient I had who came in speaking another language. No translator was available and the noises coming out of their mouth along with the hand gestures were completely baffling. That is what people who don't accept or believe in God will often experience when we try to explain. Instead of justifying our lives before others, find God and where He wants you to be, then let your life speak for itself. I am not discouraging sharing Him with others, but I think it is foolish to waste time debating God. The reality should be our example, much like the Orville Brothers using their "flying machine" to shut people up.

  Finally, I will encourage myself-as most of these are written to me-to not limit God. Can those two words even belong in sentence together? When I try to understand Him, I often get discouraged because I don't understand it all...but that is ok. My job is to be a human and His is to worry about everything else and be God. He tried to make life a bit more simple in that respect, so why should I complicate it??

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So This is Love?

"Greater love has no one than this-than a person who would lay down their life for their friend."

What a quote. Self-less love. It is a foreign concept for our modern world. We live in a world where everything is fast pace to allow you to get as much accomplished and advance your career as quickly as possible. Some industries seem to demand some sort of moral compromise in order to gain the "respect" and move up. Marriages end every day and no one thinks twice about it because "everyone is doing it". Infidelity, compromise, and immoral behavior are all joked about and acceptable because, after all, we are only human!

A study done by the National Institute of Health shows that psychiatric admissions in children ages 5-12 has doubled in the last ten years. Our hospitals are flooded with suicidal and depressed people, yet we have never had as many advancements in technology and modern conveniences as we do today. Why are people so unhappy?

Happiness is not something you can box. It isn't a gift you can give. Money, fame, a great job, a significant other: none of these mean happiness. Happiness is defined in the Webster dictionary as, "A state of well being and contentment."

When I traveled to Ethiopia, I played with children in a school. These kids marveled when we took out a camera and showed them their photo-they had never seen a mirror. Bubbles??? Did someone say bubbles??? You should have seen them dance around in delight as we blew bubbles for them. These kids ate the same thing every day and didn't always get to eat three times. Kids who wore with hand-me-down clothes and entertained themselves. These kids were significantly more content than the American kids I had done clinics for. Sure, upbringing matters significantly, but as adults we have control.

Something my mother taught me growing up was that whenever you are upset or having a rough time, get your eyes off of yourself. I swear, there were days I would start to complain to her about how upset I was about something and she would forget to do the empathy part and skip right to the, "Well why don't you find someone to encourage or help?!? That will get your mind off of your problems!" Now that I am an adult, when people come to me (close friends) and start to fuss about how bad they have it, I have been known to say, "Well let's see... your airway is clear, your heart is still beating, and you are still breathing...things could be worse!" That would be the trauma nurse coming out. The truth remains, we can always find something to be thankful for or someone who is worse off than us.

So now I have gotten waayyy off topic, but I want to talk about the greatest love. You see, the quote at the top is from Jesus, the inventor of and ultimate Lover. He is the source of perfect love. We cannot manufacture it. Everyone deserves to be perfectly loved because Christ gave us the ultimate example and loved without conditions. He died on the cross with the knowledge that we would do things to hurt him continually, even thousands of years later! Imagine loving someone even when they hurt you all of the time. Our society condones "getting out" of an unbalanced marriage but the sacrifice it takes to love no matter what.

Love takes all forms. People love in their own way but that does not make it perfect love. The only way to have perfect love is to let Christ's love flow through you and the only way to do so is to be close to Him. When you love like He loves, no one can fault you and no one can shake you because it is a self-less love. The greatest love-laying down your life for another. You don't have to die to do that, you just put yourself aside and do what is best for them. That seems awful because everyone wants something for their efforts but when you are able to see past your self, it doesn't matter if the person you love is unable to return it, your reward is much greater.

I don't have a good way to wrap this up as my brain is going a million miles an hour but not doing well categorizing and writing. What I would encourage is to practice self-less love. It makes a difference and can change even the hardest of hearts. While it is certainly not easy, Jesus didn't call us to an easy life on this earth.

Sunshine Through the Rain

   Sometimes life seems to royally dump on us as humans. Sometimes it's a slow and steady rain that builds up over time and sometimes it is a simple downpour. We resist and attempt to remain on our feet when suddenly the tidal waves of our feelings come rushing in and much like erosion, eat away at our soul and our knowledge of reality. What do we do during times like these? Is there anything we have to stand on.



   I believe that God never gives us more than we can handle. I also believe that He gives the toughest battles to the strongest people. That being said, my actions don't always follow and my belief drifts into the "head knowledge" storage space.


   When we as humans understand how small we are in the big picture of life and experience the humbling realization of how intricate and well-planned the natural world around us is, it is then that we begin looking for a source of and reason for our existence. Some people begin on this journey and allow the millions of distractions of life to flood out their search. Some realize the need for a "Creator" to the incredible design and abandon the search upon the realization that their life might have a design and they might not be in control. Still others educate themselves well on the matter, believe solidly in a Creator and a plan, yet live their life as if they can pick and choose where the plan is convenient and where they get to make the decisions.


   I find myself guilty of being a part of the last group. I decide that I am capable of making my own decisions completely autonomously. Leaving the Creator out of the process gives me complete freedom-or so I think. I plod along, happy-go-lucky in my own world, when suddenly things in life don't make sense. Things go awry and none of my efforts to reverse the circumstances work. I go running back to the one with the blueprints, a frustrated and confused child. The Creator tenderly embraces me and points me back to the perfect plan for my life. How many times do I wander a maze instead of following the path?

Warning: This post contains graphic images

   The actual title to this post is "Learning to Look Up". I put the disclaimer at the top because non-medical individuals are allowed to be disturbed by blood and insides of the body being outside. It is nothing shameful.

   When I walk, I frequently find myself looking down. I am not the most coordinated of people at times and can easily get distracted by my surroundings and misjudge a corner of a wall or fail to recognize the spread of a rolling chair. I regularly find cuts and bruises on myself from unknown causes. Hence I look down.

   Sometimes I catch myself "looking down" at work. Focusing on tasks and diseases and failing to see a person with needs other than a quick IV and medication. I rush through my tasks so I can finish my charting and fail to be the one to actually see the person in the gown.

   One such time in my life, God reminded me to look up. A patient was assigned to me with complaints of lower extremity/calf pain. She was in tears and saying her leg felt like it was going to explode. Unfortunately, tears in the ER are a norm and must be sifted through. I will admit, I took her semi-seriously. I had just discharged a horribly dramatic drug seeker who had attempted to use up all of my compassion and dragged me through mounds of hypochondriac "issues". This new patient had been brought back to the exact same room and I had walked in with a remaining attitude from the prior encounter.

   I walked out of the room to grab my IV supplies. I re entered and began assessing the patient while starting an IV. Labs drawn and as thorough an assessment completed as possible with her tears and pain, I returned to find a Doctor to address a bit of the pain so that a better assessment would be possible.

   After giving her some medication, she was less tearful and able to share her story. She had a blood clot in her leg that was a result of an accidental kick during a game of freeze tag. She was being treated appropriately, but today things changed and suddenly she began having excruciating pain with occasional loss of sensation.

  What were these bizarre symptoms? Drug seekers come in all shapes, sizes, appearances, and sometimes I still get tricked. If it wasn't that, there are some emergencies it could be. When you did the physical assessment, her leg looked just a little more swollen and was just a little more warm. It gave all of the characteristics of a normal leg with very subtle differences.







   Ortho was consulted. They wrote her off as being dramatic but the Doctor and I began considering something more. We paged again and demanded they take a second look. A pressure was checked in her leg. Sure enough-no drugs, true pain. This patient was dealing with compartment syndrome, a true emergency where the pressure is too great in a compartment of the muscle which can cause irreversible muscle and nerve damage as well as blood flow problems. The patient was prep'd and rushed off to surgery to have a emergency fasciotomy.

I tell this story, partly so I will remember the lesson learned of always taking things seriously until proven otherwise, but also to remind myself to remember the humans around me. I allowed my emotions from my prior patient to influence my treatment of another patient. While there was "no harm done", the potential was present. Additionally, I was lacking in my compassion levels due to a prior experience. People are human. They make mistakes. They also make life better. Our judgement or preconceived notions need to be dropped when it comes to being loving. Jesus gives love freely to all and my prayer for today is to stop "looking down" and start loving others more.

Emotions and Pain

Emotions.

They exist. We can't see them or touch them. We can't smell them. We can't administer them and expect for the product we distributed to be the same as when we gave it. They are based what? We cannot deny them. We can work through them but our society accepts them as an excuse. Women are "allowed" to behave inappropriately once a month and let's be honest, who is really going to know if they decide to fake that time as an excuse. Certain actions of others are deemed to have an appropriate emotional response which, under normal circumstances, would be inappropriate. These are all foggy and grey. Why the grey colors everywhere. Why not live with a solid set of rules and behaviors.

Emotions are a gift from God and can greatly enhance our life. Emotions are something that we can use as icing on the cake or abuse and just have independent. Without a solid cake to hold a shape, icing cannot be truly appreciated. Without the solid set of expectations based on something that doesn't change, emotions flit around like a feather in the wind. They may land for a time and appear to have stability but the next little gust of wind will move them to a completely different place. A feather in the wind is beautiful and sees many things, but ultimately has no consistency and therefore cannot be depended on for anything but visual diversion.

There are very few constants in this world. We could say life is a constant but that would be false. People die unexpectedly every day. We could say the sun is a constant, but what about the days it rains. We could say matter is a constant, but the second law of thermodynamics and life itself proves otherwise. Things don't just get better spontaneously, they must have a force of some sort.

Let us go beyond this world. Space perhaps? Perhaps, but it is essentially an unknown hypothesis at the present. How about getting back to the beginning/master designer.

I don't believe chaos created the world because the laws of the world daily prove otherwise. I believe in a Creator. A constant. The one thing that has consistency and has stood the test of time. The Bible has stood the test of thousands of years. I suppose if a Creator can implement the universe with His words, he can protect and preserve his Words in the writing of his creation. It is interesting how he wrote the Bible for the literate and painted creation for the illiterate and yet we still refuse to trust.

He doesn't change. Why not put him in the middle of you life-He wants to be there-and let Him guide your decisions. My world is constantly rocked. Things happen that should upset me. People fail me. I fail myself. Strangely, I cope best when I am closest to the Creator. Why would that be? Why would I be most successful when I am doing what I was designed to do? Is a toaster more successful when it is toasting bread or trying to do the job of a generator? Well it wasn't intended to be a generator and while that is a noble and lofty goal, it will never be most successful. Even if it were capable of being a generator, that was not it's purpose and emotions come with fulfillment of your purpose.

Pain.

It is whatever you say it is. It is not a geometrical shape. It does not have a solid scale that across the board is objective. It is whatever you say it is.

To be continued...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Unfamiliar with Bolivia


Adventure. Mirrors of Salt. SUV's. Spanish. Another check off the bucket list. Maybe a little dangerous. But adventure!!!
That is how I imagined Bolivia before I experienced it. As I reflect on the trip, my description changes:
Vast. Undiscovered. Unknown. Spanish speaking. Dangerous. A different world. A more simple life. Friendly people. Harsh and corrupt government. Learning to survive-no matter what.

I had landed in La Paz, Bolivia. La Paz is the seat of two branches of Bolivia's government. It is also the third most populous city, boasting 2.3 million inhabitants.
The people of Bolivia greeted me as I stepped off the plane. They held the position of customs agents. They sent me to the back of the line multiple times. They tried to charge me extra despite my already expensive and prepaid visa. They made me fill out extra forms and riddled me with questions as to the nature of my journey and what I was carrying.
The people of Bolivia greeted me just outside of the airport. I was a friend of a friend to them and they embraced me. They grabbed my luggage and shooed me into a warm vehicle. The took me into their home and treated my altitude sickness. They gave me a warm shower and a cozy bed. The semi-language barrier didn't stand a chance against their sweet smiles and hospitality.
It is amazing how much adjusting must be done when traveling to foreign countries, particularly when one is coming from a very comfortable lifestyle in the United States of America. You must void all expectations and be prepared for an adventure. You must roll with the circumstances, good and bad. You must be open to new experiences and customs.
After much research, lots of questions, and my limited experience, I have concluded that Bolivia's government system is extremely difficult to understand due to it's pliancy. Bolivia has had sixteen Constitutions in their history recent and their latest constitution was agreed upon in 2008 after much debate by Congress. Those following their current President, Evo Morales, locked Congress in a building for three days until a decision was made.
President Morales holds the title as the "First Indigenous President of Bolivia". From what I understand, the Indigenous Indians of South America hold a similar position to that of the African Americans at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. They are seen as "the other" and their lack of European blood gives them a lesser status than those of European descent. The separation between the indigenous and the Bolivians with European descent is evidenced in the clothing, social status, language, way of life, and even education level. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and a place where the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor.
Bolivia is a Socialist country. The dictionary definition of socialism as "an economic concept that advocates public ownership of all resources". Wealth, goods, land; all is owned by the public and shared equally. With a government in place to distribute the resources, the imperfection of humans comes to life. Socialism, while theoretically providing everyone equal opportunity to everything, also removes the incentive to work hard because it isn't necessary to do so in order to have. This type of government can be argued to have the most wealthy (those in power) but also the extremely poorest (those under the control of the wealthy).

La Paz sits at 13,000 feet above sea level. Coming from 300 feet above sea level to this 13,000 was quite a dramatic change. Thankfully, friends from the states with travel experience had my back and helped me prepare for the climate change. My body took a hit, but not to the extent of most.
Aside from the elevation the food is quite different. Staples include rice, potatoes, and bread. Plantain are common and pork, beef, chicken, and the occasional llama are their primary meat sources. Lunch is the main meal and is often three courses with a light soup to start, the main meal, then a dessert that frequently consists of a fruit. Many foreigners describe the food as bland, but sauces (especially mayonnaise) are often served with the meal to add variety.
The traffic. Wow. Pedestrian and road alike. I will say after living in D.C., I don't even notice. La Paz has an excellent public transportation system...if you understand it. Cabs can be a more comfortable ride or they can provide the opportunity for a crime. My friend, a Bolivian who spent much of his early life in La Paz, made sure to call a cab company for a reservation so that there would be a record of his call in case the cab decided to try something. Cabbies have been known to rob customers and kick them out in a deserted alley.


The road systems are extremely rugged. Particularly the country roads of Bolivia...well our poor pregnant friend described it very well, "I believe every cell in my body is rudely shaken". To traverse the expanse of the 4,000sq miles of Salar de Uyuni, we used a 90's model of the Toyota Land cruiser. Our driver was incredible, negotiating an immense land of flat sand and salt with trails that intersected and dissected with no difficulty. He used no compass, map, or GPS he made meager wages, he roughed it with a group of six foreigners for three days and two nights away from his family, all the while laughing, entertaining, and accommodating his tourists.
As I reflect on the trip and the many things I learned about Bolivia, I realize how much I have learned about myself. The comforts of the U.S. have become much more a part of me than I realized. I thought I was tough and able to "camp" or do without many modern conveniences. Take me up 13,000 ft in the cold of winter and I discovered differently. The number of times I stopped myself from complaining was embarrassing. The number of times I thought back to what I had in the U.S. and just "wanted to go home" was absurd. I was surrounded by people who had nothing and were still content. I was dressed and fed and had so much more than so many of them, yet all I could do was think about what I was lacking.

Bolivia. Humbling. Self-embarrassment. Conviction. Realization. Contentment. Thankfulness.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Parent's Bad Dream-A Med Professional's NIGHTMARE


    It is a parent's bad dream: watching helplessly as their young child struggles to breathe. It is as if time stands still as they consider everything in their power to assist in opening up those delicate airways on their miniature human. Certainly great amounts of stress overcome those parents found in this type of situation, but for a minute put yourself in our shoes;

  A father comes running into the waiting room with a limp body that is obviously struggling to breath. Those crowding the waiting room observe the pair almost baffled and confused as they recognize an "emergency" but have little idea of what is happening. It is you they all turn to. You are the one who has the training, the license, and that coveted identification badge that suddenly feels much like an anvil dangling from your chest.

  The situation is bad. Children compensate well then crash fast. This child is already having mental status changes, is covered in sweat, and his oxygenation reads 75% instead of the comfortable 95-100%. Your heart is in your throat as you gather information and do your best to prioritize the most important questions. Airway obstruction, underlying medical problems, allergies...nursing school doesn't prepare you for these things. Your mind attempts treason as it melts into a confusing state of figuring out what to do next. "A, B, C's" you were always taught. Give that kid some oxygen...but if the airways are constricted what good will it do?

  You rush the child back to a room, call for a doctor and a colleague to pull the appropriate medications, and begin preparing to treat this precious little life. The work this little body is doing to breathe is heartbreaking to watch, but your job is to get past the emotions. Those thoughts "what a cute little guy", "He has such beautiful blue eyes and long eyelashes", "Look at his dump truck pj's and sponge-bob slippers"-all of those thoughts are on lock-down. Your mind is in a sort of "skin/body/human" mode where all you can see is the physical and attempt to preserve or prolong the life in front of you. You consider the size of the body for adjustments to treatment, but struggle to not remind yourself "don't screw up-he's just a kid and has a lot of life left!"

  I have experienced scenarios very similar to this and they have gone many different ways. My most recent was excellent. As the patient was placed in the room, my team descended on him and worked together to correct the problem. The outcome was positive and the little guy recovered well.

  When finding out I work in the ER, people frequently react in a combined horror/awe with the obvious "what is the craziest thing you have seen?" It certainly is a crazy place to work and the perfect place for an adrenaline junkie. There is constant stimulation and challenges and you must learn to work with others, be sharp with details, and think on your toes. To me it is a constant reminder of how precious life is and how briefly it lasts. Some shifts make me want to run to the airport and jump on a flight to Missouri in order to give my family one more hug. We all do it. We disagree or get annoyed with those we love. Just remember the next time you get impatient with them-some people don't get that chance anymore. Love those you are blessed to share this journey of life with, especially those whom you
can call family. I believe love is stronger than anything else in life and although you may never know how important your love is to someone else, I think it is important to love so selflessly that it is undeniable. Jesus gave us the capability and the ultimate example of love-so why hold back?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Psychosis and Living with "The Voices"

   The report came in: "We have a suicidal patient with two large slices running laterally along her wrists. Bleeding controlled and patient cooperative. We will arrive to your facility in five." 
   
  It always catches my attention when I see a truly suicidal patient. Our healthcare system allows for a lot of "suicidal patients" or people in stressful situations who make passing comments, shoot texts about life being difficult, or maybe they upset the wrong person. When deemed "suicidal" at triage, there is a lengthy series of events that must occur to ensure proper screening and treatment of true suicide. With these patients, we go through the protocols and are prepared in case they were to become a danger to themselves or others. Truly suicidal patients do not exist as often-possibly because they are successful. When they do show up, their attempts often leave us with the double challenge of the physical and the mental to treat.

   This patient was different than the normal, truly suicidal patient. The voices had been telling her all day how worthless and what a burden she was. They had pointed out that she was over fifty, unable to hold down a job, and completely dependent on her eighty-year old parents due to her mental instability. They had pointed to the razor blades in the bathroom and suggested she help society. The voices had only been silenced after she carved the second linear slice through the layers of her skin leaving exposed tendon. She "awoke" to find her wrist bleeding and after an hour of trying to control the bleeding, woke up her father to request a trip to the ER.

  Now pause and rewind thirty years. She was in her early 20's, driving to Reagan National Airport to pick up her father. He was a Marine and flying in to visit. She was a successful TA in a well known college in the area with an incredibly bright future. That day her world changed.

   A driver of another vehicle side-swiped her vehicle at highway speeds. She was unable to regain control of the vehicle. Firefighters using the Jaws of Life pried her limp body out of the pile of metal. She was rushed to the Hospital. She survived the experience, but in many ways several parts of her remained in the wreckage. 

  She spent hours over the next ten years in exploratory surgeries as specialists attempted to repair the damage causing residual symptoms. One of the surgeries she needed was a total jaw reconstruction and a repair of part of her skull. When she awoke from the surgery, it was evident something had gone terribly wrong when she began to seize. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and more medications were added to her already growing list.


   Shortly after the accident, she began to struggle with depression. Raised in a very strong and successful family, she had a wonderful support group including several siblings, but her new-found limitations and dependencies wore her down and made her feel like a burden. She was prescribed medications for depression and assigned counselors. Things seemed to stabilize until the reconstructive surgery. Suddenly she was hearing voices. The voices were loud and unfortunately very much in the foreground of her world. They continuously reminded her of how worthless she was and how much everyone had to accommodate her. These episodes would throw her into acute psychotic medications. Doctors prescribed more intense therapy and stronger medications.

   Back to the present day and the woman that sat before me. Merely the shell of a woman. She drifted into the room and began to change and bag her belongings. The system is well known to her. Her eyes bulge wide as she listens to me. Her obvious analysis of my words and body language are reminiscent of a child on high alert for stranger danger. It is 0300 in the morning and her eighty year-old father sits in the waiting room reading his kindle and prepared for another long hospital visit. 

   As I update him, he explains. She was recently put on a large dose of Lithium-an extremely strong anti-psychotic medication-so that she could be discharged after months from the psych ward. The side effects of the medication caused such intense tremors that she was unable to walk. Doctors cut her dose in half and the voices returned-hence this episode. Not actual suicide, he believed, just a cry for help. His eyes looked to me for answers, "Her mom and I just don't know what to do anymore. She has a PHD from (a well known college) yet she rarely leaves her room. She can sit on her bed doing nothing for hours. She comes to me for permission to have a snack. Her siblings don't believe any of this is real and her mother and I won't be around much longer."

 

 Her story is duplicated in patients all around the world. I bring it to light because it makes me think about a few things. Most obviously, how many of us have so much to be thankful for-things that we don't even realize? Things like not being hit when that car cut us off last week or not having to take a pile of medications every day?
 The bigger idea her story makes me consider is about the thoughts I entertain daily. How many negative thoughts to I allow to float through my mind? How many of those thoughts do I entertain or explore in more depth instead of chasing them out? How many times do I look in the mirror and dislike what I see? How many times do I see another or  younger person's success and begin to consider how much of a "failure" I have been in that area? I am taking her story to an extreme in many ways but I wonder how much more you and I could accomplish if we removed those negative "voices" in our mind. I am a huge proponent of surrounding myself with positive people who share a mutual desire to challenge and improve both self and one another. While it is great to put yourself in a controlled environment, the larger question is what is inside of you and who or what controls that environment? Do we allow the media and society and the great thinkers of the world to control our thoughts or do we consider their opinions and make our own decisions based on a greater purpose? What makes their human thoughts more valuable than ours? Education? Experience? 

   These are just some things to consider as you wake up and begin another day, perhaps not happy at where you are. Consider what is inside of you and what your internal voices are saying, then consider replacing unnecessary ones with a more positive perspective.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

So you think you want to date my mom?


So, you think you like my mom. You and a whole slough of the male population. What makes you special? Just to give you a foot up, here are a few things you need to know before even considering dating her:

1. My mom. She is MY MOM. She could potentially be your girlfriend, maybe even your wife, but she brought me into this world and has made me a priority my entire life. She has known me from diapers to diplomas and I'm not going anywhere. Us kids have made our fair share of mistakes and she's loved us through them all so don't even think you are going to be able to change that. If anyone would have changed it, it would have been my little brother and he's still in the will.

2. She is incredible. She is a rock. She is independent and strong and knows what she wants and puts her everything into getting it. If she opens up to you and makes herself vulnerable, I hope and pray you are wise enough to realize what a wealthy man you have become. There is another thing you should know. I grew up with a shotgun, rifle, and 9mil and am well versed in their use. I currently work as an ER nurse in the President's hospital. I have connections. If you hurt her...well, consider this a fair warning.

3. My mom does not tolerate facades and empty words. Be real with her and she will be real with you. Be fake with her and she will be real with you. She doesn't lie well and is not good at hiding her emotion. Learn that early on and be straight up with her. Oh, and that goes for me too. Don't even try to play any games with me. I've had the ultimate game been put down and have learned a thing or two.

4. I'm her daughter. I'm also her best friend. She opens up to me, even when she tries not to. I have the same problem. She used to terrify me by saying I would tell her my deepest darkest secrets in my sleep. It only scared me because I didn't know what else they were because I had already told them to her. I hope you are able to have that kind of connection with her, but know that I was there before you and I'm not going anywhere. Expect to have to deal with phone calls and visits and someday grandkids because she's always going to be a huge part of my life.

5.My mom is gorgeous. You already know that. She will occasionally complain about cellulite, extra pounds, grey hairs, wrinkles, etc. It is your job to find creative ways to complement her-not the, "Oh honey, you look great!" but something much more original. She and I don't listen to empty complements, so don't waste oxygen. There are old people who have to carry around tanks and could use it!

6.Perhaps you don't know this, but my mom has problems. She is human and she does have struggles. Finding someone you want to spend your life with is about finding someone who's problems you are willing to accept and perhaps help with. In return, they agree to do the same for you. It is give and take. She will give her soul but you better be giving yours in return. A selfless love is what she needs because it is what she offers. Be prepared to make sacrifices because she will do the same.

7.I'm an adult. Don't try to be my dad. I will treat you like family if you earn my respect by being real and treating my mother well. She deserves the best this world can offer. None of us expect you to be perfect-in fact we expect you to fail because we will fail. It is up to you to be willing to admit when you fail and make it right. We all struggle but we all help one another. It is what family is about. Don't bother with expensive things-they are nice but you can't buy my family.

For now, I think I have given you enough to think about. Just know, once you are in, you are in. We believe in trust and loyalty and I hope that you have a better understanding of what you are about to take on. It will be a lot of work, but I can guarantee you that if you are up to it you will never be disappointed.

Good luck!
Her protective daughter, Grace

Monday, March 10, 2014

"You Complete Me!"

     I am going to start with something that might not grab the attention of many, in fact it may dissuade many from reading further. I say that because I have been guilty of it. I am going to start with an excerpt from the Bible:
   Colossians 2, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. It goes on to say, "For the entire fullness of God's nature dwells bodily in Christ and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority."

Background.
   Lately, several things have surfaced in my life that have made me question some of my views on relationships. My whole life I have lived in the US. I grew up in a small town. Life was simple and my concept of love was strongly forged by my surroundings. Lyrics to mainstream songs included, "What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you" (The Script), "Please remember how I feel about you, I could never really live without you" (the Beatles), and "Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you" (a UB40 remix). Movies frequently portrayed a female lead in some sort of distress or seemingly lacking in some area when suddenly she meets this man and life is forever better. Even at church, I was encouraged to be a lady and wait for the man to come along whom God would send and who would take care of me and be the supporter of myself and my children. As I matured into...well independence from my parents, I left with more of those core beliefs than I realized.

   Moving to D.C. was a bit of a shock when it came to my views on relationships. Women's rights advocates and progressive movements discourage the more "old-fashioned" approach and made my head spin as guys would make comments like "well aren't you going to get my number?" or "I thought you weren't interested because you didn't ask me out!" It was so backwards to what I was used to.

A Partial Person?
   As I began to consider all of these things, I realized that growing up, I was submerged in a culture that preached an "incomplete-ness" that would only be filled by a significant other. There was the occasional outlier that encouraged finding yourself in God, but the popular belief was much to the contrary. A similar mindset exists in D.C. although it uses a different and more politically correct approach.

   I will stop here and say I am not accusing my teachers, mentors, or parents of doing a poor job raising me. I am merely pointing out a popular idea in our culture that I believe permeates our mindset and can sabotage our expectations of relationships.  

   An idea is that you roam around aimlessly doing your thing and one day something happens and you meet this person who changes your life and makes you whole. You realize you cannot live without them and you realize how dull your life was prior to them. Essentially, the prior life you lived devoid of this person was simple preparation for this one moment and these new chapters of your life with this person. 

   In returning to the opening verses the Bible says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception." I believe these ideas have held generations captive-especially the female side of it. I believe the Bible is very clear on the fact that only Christ can "complete" us. We have significant and unique needs that no one individual can fully satisfy. We are all human and that one individual who we commit to will fail and be unable to fulfill us every time. In addition, the added stressors of a relationship (i.e. kids, bills, work) will again distract them from satisfying or completing us. When this happens repeatedly, discontentment will set in and the temptation to look elsewhere for completion begins. 

   At the stage of discontentment, society allows us to believe we as individuals have "grown apart" or lost commonality. The escalated divorce rate demonstrates society's acceptance of realizing the relationship was good while it lasted, but now it's time to move on. Therapists push ideas like, "You deserve to be happy!" Perhaps we do, but is it happiness we are pursuing or joy?


"LightBulb" (Despicable Me)
   I offer an alternative. I have not had extensive experience, but what I see based on reading and observation is that the happier people are those who are complete without another human. They don't scour the earth looking for their soulmate and carrying a load of expectations to dump at their feet. Instead they take the initiative to be complete in something that does not change (Jesus). They then find someone with whom they share that commonality. In so doing, when hard times happen, they are shaken but their foundation is not shattered because it is something that humans cannot touch. Your relationship with Christ is like nothing else in life. People can hurt your family, your reputation, your feelings, even your physical body, but they cannot touch you and your God. 

   The encounter with this person that I found myself subconsciously waiting for...it isn't realistic. I expected this encounter, the following emotions and moments of passion to fulfill me, however feelings are up and down. As a wise person said, "Feelings are like the tides of the ocean:they come up and go back down. However commitment is like the ocean and is always there." 

   When I stop waiting around and work on completing myself in Christ, I am able to bring my "whole" self to a relationship instead of a person with gaps. From there I can choose to love freely. Society pushes the idea that love is something we have no control over and that we fall in and out of. With this new-found freedom, I am able to leave the details of the person to God. The best part about this mindset it that I will not walk into a relationship looking for what someone can do for me and what I can get out of it. Instead I will be loving the other freely with no expectations. Of course I would hope to be loved in return, but if they were to stop loving me, it would not leave me a broken and defeated person. Instead of "needing" the other person and being "unable to live without them" I am free to fully enjoy my moments with them, and still enjoy life when they are not around. Instead of fearing their death and wondering what I would do without them, I could enjoy our time together and realize that if they were to die, I will continue to live because I am "whole".

   I will offer another alternative as I realize many readers may not believe in God or a higher power. For those, I offer that you still work to better yourself and make yourself complete without waiting for another. Learn who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths. Identify what you want out of a relationship and acknowledge what it is you are willing to sacrifice. In the event you are unable to find yourself complete, perhaps you might consider the possibility of a God or Creator who has a higher purpose for you. The best way to identify what our purpose is here on earth and who is meant to complete us is to find out where we came from. 


Another Thought...
   Something that really bothers me about relationships is this idea that we always have to be focused on/thinking of that person. I am very independent and the thought of being so attached to another turns me off of the whole idea. With a "whole individual" approach, imagine all of the potential we would have to help others or better ourselves instead of spending every idle minute away from our lover thinking of them or wondering what they are doing. Those idle moments are when the "crazy" comes out and when temptation to cheat or thoughts of "what is he really doing?" begin.

   Finally, imagine what two whole and complete people could do if they joined forces. Think of superheroes. Those guys and girls who are singlehandedly saving the world. Then suddenly they get together with another who has superpowers and has been on their own doing just fine. Each understands that they have this "saving-the-world" gig going on, but each longs for the love and affection of another. Does it mean they lose their power? No, but together they are even stronger because they compliment each other.


   When we get our fulfillment in Christ, His love pours out of us. His love is perfect and does not make demands or look for it's own pleasure but rather seeks the best of the other. If you truly want to love to the best of your ability, tap into the love of Christ and let it flow through you. 



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living with a Purpose

What do you live for? When you wake up each morning, what are your thoughts directed towards? When you reflect on your week, what did you spend the most hours doing and to what avail?

So many of us live our mundane lives and go to our lackluster jobs to only return to our homes and rest so we have energy to do the same thing the next day. We allow those around us and society to determine what we do and how we live. We chain ourselves to a notion of what we should be, based on what the media dictates. It allows us a sense of security because we "fit in" and have a role. 

The bigger question is, what is the point of your individual life? Do you have a specific purpose and if so, how do you find it?

William Wilberforce is a name unknown to many but one that represents a man who went from living for himself to changing the mind of the British Empire in regards to slavery. Elected into Parliament at an early age, Wilberforce described his early years as his having done "Nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object." Wilberforce began to reflect on his life and he began to realize the opportunity he had to make a difference. He became absorbed with the issue of slavery. 

Slavery became a profitable industry for the British Empire, particularly during the 1700's. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. Slavery was second nature to the British and the prevailing mindset was that slaves were less than human. This allowed slave-owners to feel justification.

Wilberforce tackled this challenge and presented Bills to Parliament opposing slave trade. Initially all twelve bills were blocked. He continued to rewrite and propose bills of Abolition and in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805 his propositions were again blocked. People saw the slave trade as extremely profitable and Wilberforce's attempts to change the ideas of a nation were not well received. It was not until 1808 that Parliament passed the first act to outlaw slave trade. As you know, it was not until 1863 that America followed suite with the Emancipation Proclamation.

I tell this story, not so you can "oooh" and "aaah" over another famous person. Wilberforce was not that. Think of him as "Will" or "Kelly or you. He was an ordinary person who decided that normal and average were not good enough. He saw a travesty and he set out to fix it. He failed so many times, but he knew what was right and he stood up for what he believed. 


Sir Francis Bacon said, "It is a sad fate for a man to die too well known to everybody else and still unknown to himself." Wilberforce admitted that he didn't know who he was or what his purpose was, but he set out to find it. This is what I encourage you to do. Life is full of opportunity. Living in America (the land of opportunity) gives me no excuse. There are problems all around us. The question is are we brave enough to step out of our comfort zone and do something about them? Are we willing to do the uncomfortable? Are we willing to make a difference in the world?

I encourage you today to find your purpose in life. Although I am not saying your life purpose will be laid out for you, I do believe we can find the purpose for each day that is towards a greater good. For me, my relationship with God allows me to understand my purpose. I am a traveling nurse. Where I will live next year is unknown. I could still live here or I could be in Malaysia. It is not for me to necessarily know my future, but to know that I am where I am supposed to be at this moment. It takes a lot of faith to find your purpose the way I do, but God has never let me down. The way I figure, if He can successfully design an entire universe and keep it running for this long, He probably has a pretty good idea of what I should do with my life. Find your purpose!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Eyes of Cancer

“Seriously? Another young, male patient?? Lynn, I thought we talked about this-I’ll take anything tonight but the young ones-I can’t put up with any more whining tonight!!” I was half joking with our charge nurse, but definitely half serious. It had been a full night of putting up with the grown momma’s boys. I had spoon fed a fully capable adult male, “hid” an IV with flesh-toned tape and a pile of blankets on another, and run back and forth for multiple meals on a guy who was “starving to death” and “hadn’t eaten for AT LEAST two hours!!!”. These were only the examples I mention. The unnecessary drama of the ER was starting to get to me and because it happened to be with a similar age group and gender, I was attempting to stereotype and boycott for the rest of the shift.
The report from the triage nurse came. “No, I think this one is really sick. He looks pretty terrible. Nausea and stomach pain.” I had walked by triage earlier and seen an elderly gentleman, but none that fit the description. 
One horrible trait of ER nurses is that we are rarely surprised. We see an exceptional amount of the absurd and extreme of the medical world. As I opened the patient chart to get a bit of history on him, I was shocked to see several different cancers listed in his current history. The triage note mentioned a recent end to his current chemotherapy treatment and a bout of nausea and severe pain that rendered him incapable of keeping anything down.


As I entered the patient’s room, my automatic self-control (a similar concept to all-wheel drive) kicked in. I held back a gasp. I had skimmed the chart and pictured a twenty-something year old with a little stomach pain. In my mind's eye he was a thick, strapping Marine with a little stomach bug that I would fix with a little zofran. He might whine a little if I flashed a needle, but I would call his bluff and question his "Marine card" rendering him defenseless and forced to suck it up.
There was one problem. That was what I imagined. I am a firm believer that the eyes are the window to the soul. When I speak to a patient I listen to their eyes more than anything. I chart what their eyes do when they speak with their mouth. Sometimes I struggle to hear the words of their mouth over the voice of their eyes. This man's eyes told such a story. They were deep and sunken like that of a skull. They were a steel green with a haze over them-as if the chemo had left a residue of pollution. These were eyes only a few years older than mine, yet they told the story of an entire lifetime crammed into twenty-something years. I realized, this was the gentleman from the waiting room. 
As he spoke, the thinness of his face was accentuated as his mouth opened and stretched the haggard and poisoned skin across his face. That is what chemo does. It poisons your body as it tries to kill the cancer. The goal is to kill the cancer before it kills the person-then stop the treatment and try to revive the person. Those patients undergoing repeated treatments become living corpses. As I questioned him, I wondered as it seemed almost painful for him to speak. He writhed in pain-something he was used to but was now experiencing in a new place and for a new reason. 
My assessment includes a history and a physical. The history. How did someone so young get three different types of cancer? He was a Marine. One of the most fierce of his bunch. Who knows if he exaggerated, but his strong features lead me to believe him. He spoke with authority. He deployed to serve his country. He returned safely and was deployed again. The second deployment got him. He returned to his beautiful wife and family-alive and happy to be home. He began having horrible symptoms-GI like many of the troops. He assumed it was a intestinal bug that he had heard about. After extensive testing, the doctors discovered cancer in three major organs. He immediately began treatments and surgeries. Large amounts of his intestines were removed and he now wore a bag. Things he once looked forward to in life like eating were now a chore and something to be dreaded. Did he regret serving? No. He was simply learning to accept a much different life and struggling to make it "ok" in his mind.
Something I will always love about the ER is how it allows me to see people "In the raw". People don't often come here dressed up for the occasion, displaying a facade, and parading around trying to impress. No, often they are at their absolute worse. As pure as human nature can get. They are hurting or feeling helpless over some disease or ailment. They are sometimes dying. The biggest and baddest of men and the fragile great-aunts from the nursing home find themselves separated by a wall or curtain and both vying for your attention and help. I love the struggle of treating every patient equally. I love playing the "nurse" card and removing stigmas like clothing by giving everyone the same, fashionable gown. The playing field in the ER is supposed to be level and based on acuity alone.

To return to the story of the patient, I wish I could continue it with a triumphant recovery. While it is certainly possible, the chances are very slim. The disease has done its damage and continues to riddle what is left of him with more distruction. Why him? Why someone so young who was trying to do the right thing? Why the one who is out serving his country instead of dealing drugs or engaging in other illegal activity?

I learned long ago to leave the decisions of creation to the Creator. Only He can see the entire picture. In some way, He will get the glory out of our lives. Our job is simply to live them to the fullest for His glory. Take each day in stride with the knowledge that if we are doing what He would have us to do, He will take care of us. He gives the toughest battles to the strongest people-that I truly believe.

Does that mean I no longer question God? Not in the least. As I begin to think about the "Why's" of life, I begin to realize how little I and we as humans know about life. When we can successfully build a human being from absolutely nothing, we will earn the right to question our Master Creator. Until then, He can see the big picture and gets the responsibility of understanding all. Our job is to have the faith of a child. It is not ignorant-it does ask questions, but it is ultimately trusting and humble.

Below are included some of my favorite photos from the last six months. Photos of "people in the raw". Photos of a moment captured where there was an effortless emotion caught on camera. The children of an Ethiopian school, thrilled at the foreigners who brought bubbles and candy along with their medicine and love. The sweaty and sandy volleyball team who came from out of town and won a championship. A mid-laugh snapshot that will forever be an inside joke. A special moment shared between a father and a son over dinner. A new relationship and the opportunity to celebrate the excitement of the "new-ness" over a birthday. A silly face that didn't realize she was on camera. They are people, humans that are not perfect but living a life and sharing moments that they enjoy perfectly. Part of this is a story, part is a lesson, and part is an encouragement to live your life fully and completely-not really perfect but perfectly real!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Live Like a Fighter Pilot

"Pick up room eighteen from ultrasound". I'm the nurse in rooms 5-8 but nothing crazy is going on and knowing that the other nurse is tied up with a sick patient, I slip over to ultrasound to grab the patient. As I approach the elderly gentleman in the wheelchair, he hugs the piles of blankets closer and greets me with a wry smile and a sparkle in his crisp blue eyes. "Well, hello there little lady!" I introduce myself and begin wheeling him back to his room. With wheelchair parked at the bedside, we begin to unload the piles of blankets. Underneath the mound I discover a thin, elderly gentleman dressed in a suit. The collared shirt is yellowing and aged and the tie reveals it's age with faded wings. I complement his efforts at dressing himself so formally for a late-night ER trip. He points at the wings on his tie. "Do you know what those are, little lady??" I respond in the negative. He replies, "They are US Naval wings representing my time as a fighter pilot in the Navy." 


 
Actual photos from the Gentleman. No name is given and no photo credit will be given due to HIPPA.

As I am fascinated by flying, I immediately inquired about his service. His enthusiasm shone through his eyes and as he spoke of the war and the thrill of being a "hot-shot" flying ace, the years represented with age spots and wrinkles began to fade. He spoke of how fortunate he was to still be alive and how he would forever hold the American aviation engineers as far superior to the Japanese. He said, "I tell ya, I believe in the engineering of our planes. Sometimes you would see a Jap and you would just do a little 4 second squirt and they would just explode. It took more than that for ours to go down."

As he spoke, I wondered as to how much this man had seen. His view from the sky provided a front row seat to a real-time conflict and a fight for life and death. At 30,000 feet in the air, the things that mattered were much different. He could certainly spend his time thinking about what was going on at home, if his men liked him, what he was going to eat for dinner, etc. however, the reality was that if he failed to focus on the task at hand, none of that would matter.

Something else he shared that was a very real part of his life was knowing that each time he went up, he had to have his "stuff on the ground together". He had to be prepared to die at any time. This meant when he was on the ground, he lived each moment to make it count. A quote from the movie Act of Valor along this line says:
"That last night at home, you think about how you could have been a better dad, a better husband, that bedtime story you should of read or that anniversary you forgot. You don't expect your family to understand what you are doing. You just hope they understand you're doing it for them and when you get home you can pick up right where you left off."

Our lives for the most part are much different. We are not fighting for our lives in the sense of actively engaging in combat with deadly weapons and a vicious physical enemy. The unfortunate reality is that many of us allow our safety and freedom to cause us to slip into a comfortable coma of living for the next thrill or distraction. We don't need to prioritize extensively as long as we show up to class or work on time and make our boss/customer/teacher happy. We don't strive for doing our best and living intentionally because we don't have to.

Experiencing life in third-world countries always helps me re-align my priorities, but why can't I have the physical discipline to do it without leaving the country. We live in a country that is comfortable and undisciplined. Obesity rates are skyrocketing. Depression, divorce, and addictions are at an all-time high. From my limited life experience and what I have experienced in the ER, I believe it has a lot to do with our "comfortable coma". We shy away from the uncomfortable and tell ourselves "I am fine" or "I will do it when it's more convenient". I will state a known constant. Life is not easy. It can be incredibly fulfilling or it can be meaningless but it is not meant to be easy. If we are going to make the most of something that can be over in an instant, we must realize it is going to take self-discipline. Whether that is disciplining your eyes to not wander from your relationship or forcing your thoughts away from the fridge and getting out of the chair to go for a run, life is full of the need for self-discipline.

I am not saying this is easy, but if it were easy then it would not be as meaningful. Think about when you were a child and you earned some money. Then think about when someone just gave you money. The feelings attached to that money are very different. Your life is the same. It is valuable and it was given to you but with this valuable possession comes and incredible responsibility.

Today I encourage you to live your life to the fullest. Live each moment as if you were a fighter pilot, going up in the air very soon for what could be the last time. Love hard and passionately. Step out of your house and actually smell the air. Take time to smile at your neighbor. Truly listen to the concerns of another. Life is but a vapor that vanishes away. We get one shot. Will you make the most of it?

I end with a poem from Tecumseh,

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion
Respect others in their view
And demand that they respect yours
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend
Even a stranger when in a lonely place
Show respect to all people and grovel to none
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself
Abuse no one and nothing
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision
When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death
So that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way
Sing your death song
And die like a hero going home