Monday, September 27, 2010

Heart Strings

Have you ever had something in your life... a passion... a dream perhaps... something that you have always had in the back of your mind 
"Someday I'd like to do that." 
"Someday I want to go here."
Well for me that something is Afghanistan. Ever since 2003 I have had this indescribable passion and desire to go to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the reason I became a nurse. Afghanistan is the one place that will bring up intense emotions of fear, excitement, hope, sadness and passion in me.
I go through phases with this dream of mine. Phases of wanting to drop everything I have and heading over to central Asia and work in some clinic there as a nurse. Oh what a dream that would be. My most recent "Oh my gosh I'm going to pick up and move to Afghanistan." moment was when I read the book, Three Cups of Tea I fell so in love with the story of Greg Mortenson building schools in Central Asia that I couldn't think of anything else for an entire summer. As a matter of fact... that fall I drove up to San Fransisco to meet Greg Mortenson and it was one of the most exciting moments of my life. That man is truly one of my hero's.

                        Then there are days where I realize the danger and the sacrifice in it all..... and I want to do nothing but stay here with my nice secure job and happy home.... where I'm not afraid of being killed, kidnapped or captured daily.                   

 These photos are pictures of me in a burqa (the top one is just a head covering). The blue burqa I actually own and the white one was the first one I ever tried on... I cried the first time I tried on a burqa. I also wore it for an entire day during a training program I was in. Our teacher asked us to dress in "Muslim attire"  and I chose the burqa. I was ignored the entire day by my classmates. Only one person said, "Hello Andi!" and smiled. I could tell that people were terrified of me... even though they knew who was underneath.
The teacher we had that day noticed how isolated I was and asked me to sit next to him during lecture. We instantly became friends. He is a mentor of mine now and we still talk to this day.


I really don't know if or when I will end up in Afghanistan someday but I am hopeful that there is a reason for my odd and strange passion for this country. 

What about you? I want to hear about a dream or passion of yours! 


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The messy truth of this ICU nurse...

When I first started working at the VA as a student nurse I remember feeling incredibly intimidated by the patient population. All male.... and all men who had served in the military. For those of you who have read my blog before you probably know that I'm pretty open about my life... my past and all of the struggles I have had to overcome in order to be who I am today. I've written posts before about my family history. I grew up with an abusive father and a mother who was emotionally abusive herself. I've had my fair share of abusive relationships... I'm no stranger to emotionally manipulative and (unfortunately) physically abusive men.

Well, this is where it gets messy friends. When I took the job as an ICU nurse in a veteran's hospital I knew I would continue to grow as a person because the patients I would be taking care of were the exact patients I was incredibly uncomfortable around. They reminded me of all the men in my life who had either taken advantage of me or abused me in one way or another. Learning to have boundaries and learning to set limits... learning to stand up for myself and learning to see these men not as a threat but as very sick people in need of good nursing care.... well it has been a challenge to say the least.

It has taken some serious introspection and a lot of prayer and a lot of conscious effort to become a whole and healed person... a woman who was able to face her worst nightmare and on top of that to have compassion in the midst of that as well.

Most of the time I look at how far I have come and I am so thankful for the progress I have made. The mere fact that I am actively living a healthy lifestyle without being self destructive is proof in and of itself. Still, there are some days where my past and those deep rooted fears sneak up on me. They pop up as a reminder that there is still much healing to be done and that the journey... well, the journey is far from over.

Today was one of those days. I had a patient who was demeaning, anxious and provoking. A patient who questioned me and my abilities as a nurse. He had his own history with drug use which doesn't make things easy when you are in the hospital for a 3 vessel coronary artery bypass graft surgery. At one point during the shift he became angry and demanded that I bring in a "second opinion" about his elevated blood pressures... apparently I was "stupid" and didn't know what I was doing.

After he spoke to my charge nurse and calmed down I went back into the room and he says,
 "You know why my blood pressures are elevated?"

"Why is that?" I said curtly... still frustrated by our recent interaction.

"I'm just not used to having such cute nurses!" he looks at me with a smirk on his face.

Instantly I felt my chest tighten.... I was livid. I ignored his comment... asked if he had anything else he needed from me and when he shook his head "no" I immediately left the room. I could feel my hands trembling I was so angry. I went straight to the charge nurse station and began my rant,

"I can not believe that guy! You tell me I'm stupid, you're rude and disrespectful... but oh... it's ok... it'll all go away if you tell me I'm cute. I guess I'm supposed to just smile and bow down to you cause you think I'm pretty and you're flattering me..... it's ok if you treat me like crap because you can just tell me I'm pretty and it'll all be okay! Oh no you don't. I'm not fallin' for that crap!"

At this point my co-workers know me... they know about my scrappy self and my feisty side so they just laugh it off and acknowledge that he was out of line. I on the other hand.... I was stewing for the next 2 hours. It wasn't until I went on my break that I was able to sit back and realize.... something else was going on here... something much bigger than dealing with a meth-addicted, anxiety ridden patient. My own fears... my own hurts and past wounds had just been ungraciously and brutally opened. A part of Andi that still needs some serious healing had been provoked and it wasn't pretty... in fact it was messy and painful, and if I'm being completely honest it was not fun to deal with.

For me... this is one of those moments where the ugly cry is just around the corner and if you aren't careful... any. little. thing. could set it loose. Luckily, I held it together and didn't break out into uncontrollable sobs... but I still don't have the answer to this one friends. I know I have come leaps and bounds from the damaged person I once was but I also know that there is a long journey ahead... one with steep mountains to climb and bends that have an unforeseen terrain ahead.... but one thing I do know is that I'm moving forward... one. step. at a time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The ebb and flow of ICU nursing

Halona Sunrise

It almost frightens me to say so (especially since as I write this I have one more 12 hour shift left tomorrow) but work has been good this week. *knock on wood* Any ICU nurse knows that you don't dare jinx things by saying something like "man, it's been quiet here today!"
The next thing you will hear is "CODE BLUE" blaring over the loud speakers. Still, I'm taking a risk and just acknowledging how thankful I am to be in an upswing at work. It's been steadily busy but not crazy and we have had a lot of good people on staff this week. No issues with the on call ICU docs (miracle I tell you) and in fact this month has been good so far. Last month was great also so we've really been on a roll with our ICU team. I also think it really makes a difference when you have good nursing staff on your side. I've been working with my favorite people recently which has been nice... and sometimes that one factor will determine whether it is a good or bad day.

I was able to take a training class on CVVH or continuous veno-venous hemofiltration on Tuesday and I was resource yesterday which was nice. I've been getting back into my training schedule in terms of running. Unfortunately my running injury has begun to flare up. I'm biting the bullet and looking up some sports medicine doctors in my area who might be able to help out. Very important considering I have only a few weeks left before I run my first 1/2 marathon!!

This past weekend I spent time editing photos and sort of winding down from a really draining two weeks. Before I left for Hawaii I had already been feeling like I needed some good down time by myself and it wasn't until this past week that I started getting that. Being as introverted as I am its so vital for me to have time to stop and reflect and process, because when I am around people... even people I love a lot... it takes a ton of energy and I don't ever really get to stop and feel refreshed from my crazy life.
Halona Sunrise

It's been just over a year now that I've been working as an ICU nurse and even in that short time I have seen the ebb and flow of this job wash over me. There are good days and bad and sometimes they may even turn into good and bad months. I remember my preceptor last year warning me about this.

"You will go through phases of burn out in your job... that is normal and eventually things will get better. You learn to adjust and you learn how to take care of yourself properly so you can function the best way possible... even in the midst of a burn out. When you are not able to shake out of that funk and when you begin compromising patient care... that's when you know it's time to move on."
Wise words that I have taken with me and remembered in the tough moments and have been thankful for when it feels like the bad days just won't end.
Waimea Bay

Today I am taking care of a patient who was placed on comfort care this afternoon. Other than cardiac patients, these are probably my favorite patients to have. I know it sounds strange to enjoy taking care of a dying patient, but there is something incredibly peaceful about death despite the sadness. There are few things in life more impacting than being able to be present when someone passes. To be able to give them dignity in dying and to be able to make every effort for their comfort in their last moments on this Earth... it is an honor and it is in these moments that I remember... this is what nursing is all about.
Halona Sunrise

P.S. I'm totally kicking myself now because I'm at work on that last 12 hour shift I was talking about... no joke... not 5 minutes into my shift we were coding a patient and it was a little bit of a nightmare... after an emergency intubation, CPR, 2 rounds of epi., 2 rounds of bicarb and 2 shocks from the defibrillator we finally got the guy back....
hah... I really gotta stop jinxing myself.

Oh the joys of ICU  nursing.....


Halona Sunrise

Friday, September 17, 2010

Staying Afloat

Okay friends... I'm not gonna lie.... life has been overwhelming recently, and despite my mini hiatus from blogging and my attempt at "going off the map"... I've been really tired. 
It's strange too because it isn't the same as when I was feeling burnt out. It's not that same angry, "over it" omgIcan'tstandpeople feeling... it's more like...  okay, if I have to interact with another person I think I might just shut down and shrivel up inside and be non-functional for eternity. Basically, it comes down to this...

the introvert inside me is hardcore rebelling.... and if I don't listen I think there will be repercussions.

Mainly to my sanity... but that's just not something I can sacrifice these days. So, really all that means for you is a shortened version of the vacation update. I was going to do a day by day post of Hawaii but I think now all I really want to do is post pictures.... and let's be honest.... that's all people really want to look at anyways right? :)

There are a few main things about Hawaii I do have to acknowledge though... Seriously, have any of you seen water so green.. aqua... BRIGHT blue in your life? I was floored the entire time I was there. The water was warm and salty as ever and despite the fact that it burned my eyes and seriously gave me the best nasal lavage ever... (sorry I'm a nurse remember) I felt like I could swim in it forever... except that the ocean freaks me out and I'm terrified of any part of the ocean where I can't touch the bottom safely... sucks for me cause I'm 5'1" = I'm basically stuck on shore.  Still I couldn't get over how amazing the water was!
Another thing that was incredible were the actual mountains.. we did a completely and utterly horrific adventurous hike (we happened to go off trail a bit but to be honest it was fine despite the craziness) and we came across the most amazing trees with green areas that seriously reminded me of being in the jungle... or the movie Ferngully. 
                 So much light!        Also a TON of climbing that day.
Maybe next time we will learn to pay attention to the effort previous hikers have gone through to write "STOP HERE!" as a warning for what's ahead... hah.... next time
Also the food was amazing... definitely all pretty unhealthy stuff which felt kind of gross after a while but they had some really great places with some super yummy kahlua Pig, Kyoto style ramen, shrimp trucks, malasadas, burgers, shaved ice.... yumm I'm actively missing the malasadas right now.
If you're ever in Oahu I would recommend looking up Leonard's Bakery, Giovanni's Shrimp truck on North Shore, Yotekko-Ya Kyoto Ramen, Kua 'Aina Burger and Waiola's shaved ice. 
I have a ton more pictures to post... I literally took 1,000 photos and narrowed it down to about 150 worth editing and posting. I'll put up some more in future posts but for now I'll leave you all with this...


Happy Friday!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Post

Hello Friends!

I am guest posting today over at xox, b about a recent crazy day in the ICU...

Come stop by and join me there!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Going off the Map

I lost my phone this week.... I left it on the train the day I came home from Oahu. I was so ecstatic to be home that I jumped up, grabbed my luggage and somehow managed to loose my phone merely minutes before I made it home... no joke I was holding it just seconds before I got off the train and by the time I walked home... across the street... it was gone.

Oh well... can't cry over spilled milk right?

Well, its Thursday now and I won't have a phone until this weekend... it's been two days since I've been cut off from the rest of the world (I had an iphone so I always had email, text, internet.... everything at my fingertips). I had to go back to work the day I flew in from Oahu (not a good idea btw.... I've been going on literally no sleep since I came back and I didnt sleep much on the trip)...

So all that to say..... I've gone off the map for a few days and I'm loving it. It never ceases to amaze me how much I really do enjoy being by myself... away from the rest of the world. It's been good to come home and get back into my routine...  and to not have to worry about phone calls and twitters and emails etc... That sense of urgency is gone, you know.... that feeling of always having to be available for people... and I'm liking that.

My job is so stressful... I really don't think people understand just how crazy working in the ICU can be... unless of course, you work there also. And I've really been leaning on my co-workers as a support... cause they get it. I'm so thankful for that. But knowing and realizing that this week has been big... not many people in my life understand just how drained I am pretty consistently... so being able to just detach... especially after a busy vacation... it's been nice. 

Don't get me wrong.... Oahu was beautiful.... but I love my home.... a lot... and I'm really thankful to be back.

So... in light of the circumstances I've decided to stay off the map for a bit longer. I'm gonna spend the weekend editing photos from the trip and getting settled back into my routine... I'll start posting again next week.
Hope you all are having a great week and that your weekend is even better... and for now I will leave you all with a preview of what's to come.

Happy Almost Friday Friends!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Made it to Oahu!

Arrived in Honolulu yesterday afternoon and started the beginning of our jam-packed island trip. I plan on doing a few detailed blog posts with lots and lots of pictures but for now I will leave you all with this...

and this...

both photos taken with my iphone... completely and totally unedited... unretouched.... yes the water really is that gorgeous.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!