A Letter to the Nurses Who Had a Hand in Saving My Life {and every single nurse out there}

It’s no surprise that doctors tend to get a lot of affirmation for their life-saving precision when it comes to surgery.  The doctor who performed my surgery reluctantly received plenty of attention for saving my life.  My case and the way he performed my hysterectomy have been studied both abroad and at home.  He chose to take on the surgery (first of its kind) knowing the risks at hand.  Even his wife knew of the concerns.  She called her friends and they gathered to hold a prayer vigil while he was performing the surgery.

I still have him as my doctor and see him often.  I can call him anytime I need something – day or night.  He and his wife came to our adoption celebrations.  We’ve exchanged Christmas cards and shared food together.  Our families have stayed friends through the years and he knows that I hold no bitterness towards him or the Lord.  Even still, he gets a bit weepy when we talk about my surgery.  It absolutely impacted his life.

The reality is that it was not just his expertise and his hands that saved my life.  There were many nurses who walked through that terrible sadness of my illness; yet, they did not receive the same type of attention and they did not get to watch me grow up and eventually become a mother.

To the nurses who worked the pediatric floor at the formerly called St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Missouri and who had a hand in saving my life in 1983, thank you.

Thank you for carrying my family through a horrible ordeal.  Thank you for holding my mother up while she nearly collapsed from the news and for offering my dad extra blankets at night because he just couldn’t leave.  Thank you for wiping away tears, caressing my hands and speaking words of encouragement into my ears.

Thank you for holding my body down while the needles were sliding in and out of my veins.  I knew it needed to happen and you did, too.  Thank you for checking in on me all of the time and showing the utmost professionalism with the full measure of tenderness.  Thank you for sneaking a friend onto the floor (even though it was against hospital policy).

Thank you for seeking my parents out to offer assurance that I was receiving the best care and for being goofy, smiling a lot and cheering my recovery.  Thank you for putting up with my smarty-pants antics when you couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my IV machine but I could (and I told you how to fix it).  Thank you for holding each other accountable.

I’ve often thought about the nurses on the pediatric floor who tended to my needs.  Without them, I know my experience in the hospital could have gone a lot different.  Even though it was a traumatic time, the love received absolutely made an incredible impact on my healing.

Nurses deal with anger, confusion, grief, sickness, bodily fluids, weeping parents and screaming patients on any given day.  They are comforters, counselors, scientists, and mentors.  They are teachers, advice givers, and hand-holders.

They intentionally walk into the trenches of sickness and trauma, sometimes even at their own risk.  They put up with bureaucracy, policies, and politics and do so with their patients on their minds.  Nurses do not get enough credit for the life-affirming and hope-dealing job that they do.

hosp1

To the nurses who had a hand in saving my life in 1983 and to all of the nurses out there, thank you.

Second Chance

Have you ever wished for a second chance at something?  I am sure that I have wanted chances at many things throughout life, but I trust that the Lord granted me the chances (and second ones) that were best for me and that provided the opportunity to do what He desired for me to do.

Last year, I got my second chance at thanking my former pediatrician for the care he gave me.  Dr. Hamburg had been my pediatrician ever since I was a little girl.  He happened to be gone on vacation the week that I became incredibly ill.  I lay in the hospital slowly dying while various doctors tried to figure out what was going on with me.  My mom told me that as soon as Dr. Hamburg arrived back in town, he immediately came up to the hospital, read my chart, took one look at me, and then panicked.  He quickly ordered a CT scan which revealed a mass in my abdomen.  This in turn led to exploratory surgery to find what was believed to be a mass.  The mass was actually my uterus which was extremely swollen and filled with massive infection.  Dr. Hamburg also called in a new ob/gyn surgeon with wonderful credentials to perform the life-saving surgery.

I know, or at least, firmly believe that if he would have waited just a few days to return to the “office” after his vacation, I would have never made it.  There were many hands that touched me during that time and all of them played a part in saving my life.  However, I know Dr. Hamburg did not accept not knowing what was wrong.  He hastily came to the hospital and did not stop until he found the reason why his otherwise very healthy patient lay withering away.

That is the back story of Dr. Hamburg.  I also want to share what I believe is the Lord’s gifting of a second chance for me.  Here it is….

My first chance at something I had wanted to do happened at a local grocery story about a year and a half ago.  I looked up while pushing my cart around and saw my former pediatrician, Dr. Hamburg, shopping.  I studied him closely.  He is probably close to 80-years-old now and even though I knew it was him, I just wanted to be sure.  While I was trying to get the nerve up to go talk to him, I lost sight and, like that, he was nowhere to be found.  I hastily walked from aisle to aisle looking for him but could not find him.  My chance at telling this doctor who had a huge part in saving my life was gone.

As I walked out of the store, I felt the Lord saying to me “Caroline!  I gave you the perfect opportunity and you blew it!”  Oh my…I am sure our Heavenly Father just wants to throw His hands up sometimes with frustration!  I know this is something that He wanted me to do.  I have felt so led in the past few years to reconnect with pivotal people in my life who were in the trenches with me and my family during and after my hysterectomy.

The rest of the night and several days…okay months…passed and I could not get Dr. Hamburg out of my mind.  Last summer while heading into a store I looked up and there he was carrying a bag of groceries to his car.  I walked past with my sunglasses on so that I could give him one last look just to make sure.  As I was getting closer to the door of the grocery store, I realized this was the second chance I had been hoping for.

I immediately turned around and scurried as fast as I could to his car.  Nervously, I walked up and said “Excuse me, are you Dr. Hamburg?”  He said “yes”.  I then said “I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Caroline and I was one of your patients.”  He studied my face closely, but did not seem to be quite sure of whom I was.  He then said “How are you?” I said “I’m doing really well.”  He said “You have a sister right? How is she?”  I said “Yes I do. She’s doing well.”  He then introduced me to his granddaughter.  Now at this point, I could tell it was about to get awkward as he just kept searching my face trying to recall who I was.

I took a deep breath and said to him “I don’t know if you remember this but I am the girl who had the hysterectomy when I was eleven.”  In a split second, he turned and looked at his granddaughter and then looked back at me with an expression of “aha” mixed with excitement and concern at the same time.  I said “Dr. Hamburg, I am so glad I ran into you because I want to thank you.  I know that you played a very big part in saving my life.  And, I just want to let you know how grateful I am for this.  You saved my life.”

Of course, by this time, tears were streaming down my face.  I looked at him and his eyes that were filled with wisdom from the years began to well up with tears that eventually made their way to his cheeks.  He leaned forward and hugged me saying “thank you”. As I told him about being the mother of two wonderful children adopted out of foster care, he just stood there, staring, with tears rolling down.  His granddaughter was smiling from ear to ear.  We said our goodbyes and I turned around to enter the store.  I felt like I was flying.  My heart and mind were so excited, thankful, emotional, and in awe of what just occurred.  

I am so incredibly thankful for the second chance God gave me to run into Dr. Hamburg again.  I don’t even know if chance is the right word though.  I have learned through the years that nothing really happens by chance after all.  I believe that  our Heavenly Father is and always will be the creator of opportunities, and the writer of those golden moments where we can shine for Him, show love, and express thankfulness for the works He set His children to do on this Earth.

PSALM 107:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.