Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Invisible Casualties of War.

It has been nice to see everyone acknowledging the true meaning behind memorial day. There were only a handful of the blogs I follow who didn't mention at least something small about our fallen soldiers and for that I am thankful. Memorial day has nothing to do with days off from work and BBQ's.
Being a VA nurse is not always easy. I see a lot of PTSD, addiction, alcohol abuse. I see a lot of homelessness and dysfunctional family relationships. I don't understand why so many of our nation's veterans end up on the streets with no adequate support system. Either way, I am glad that I can do my part in helping heal the wounds that being in the military has given them.
I worked this memorial day and for the first time in a long time I felt proud to be a VA nurse.... and even though I ended up floating to a unit that wasn't my own I had the opportunity of seeing first hand what true sacrifice is. Memorial day exists to honor those who have fallen in combat... but what most people forget about and often times don't even see are those men and women who come home suffering from traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries or combat related wounds. What about the men and women who die years out from deployment as a result of the injuries they suffered while at war.
Those are the kinds of soldiers I see. We have had more and more of our OEF (Afghanistan) and OIF (Iraq) soldiers showing up in our unit these days. Kids who are my age or younger and have suffered from devastating physical wounds and emotional scars related to the wars they served in. In our hospital we have phenomenal Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Rehab units and yesterday there was a rapid response called to one of those units. Since I was in charge of the code pager I answered the call and lo and behold it was for a patient that had been in our unit earlier this year. A kid not too much younger than me who had suffered an IED blast overseas and had to have half of his skull plated and a shunt placed in his brain. His injuries are so extensive that he is virtually paralyzed and is completely non-verbal. When I saw him in our unit none of us thought he would ever make it out of the ICU alive. We watched as his wife dutifully sat at his bedside day and night, helping with his rehab and withstanding every surgical procedure he would barely make it through.
When I saw him yesterday he looked like a completely different person. Still non-verbal but looked much healthier and was even able to track you with his eyes when you called his name. When we were trying to assess his mental status the nurse who had been with him in the unit leaned over him with a tightened fist and said, "Hey man, give me a fist bump so I know you're alright." Surprised and somewhat confused, I looked over at the patient and watched as he slowly reached his weakened, contracted arm up towards the nurse. He clenched his fist and sure enough he gave that fist bump, confirming he was in fact okay.
Today, as I was spending time with Chris before I headed back to work, I was sharing with him about my night yesterday and I told him about this story. I didn't realize it until that moment but I understood it then... that patient was a gift to me yesterday. God knows, yesterday was a crappy day. I had to float to another unit and work has already been difficult recently. I was tired and overwhelmed having to answer the code pager for the hospital. In many ways I have forgotten what it means to be a VA nurse. I have lost that passion.
Yesterday though... yesterday was a gift. That patient reminded me of what it means to be a soldier and on a day where we are honoring the fallen soldiers of war... I was able to see the true sacrifice of the families and soldiers of those who have served. It gave me hope and it humbled me in ways that I can't quite explain. As I was telling Chris the story of this patient... tears began filling in my eyes and it reminded me of just how rewarding my job can be.

So today I want to say thank you to the men and women who have served...
Thank you to the families who have sacrificed their loved ones.
Thank you to the men and women who are the invisible casualties of war... the ones who die after they come home.
Thank you to the soldiers whose lives are forever changed because of the service they gave to our country and especially to the sacrifice they made for their fellow soldiers.
Thank you, it is an honor to be your nurse.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Easy Crepe Recipe

It has been such a long time since I have posted a recipe on here so I thought I'd share one of my favorite crepe recipes. Its good savory or sweet and can be eaten anytime of the day. I love this recipe because it only requires four ingredients that most of us always have on hand.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt

Now, I sometimes use whole wheat flour and soy milk with egg beaters to make it a bit healthier. Or at least it feels healthier to me :) You can also add in a tablespoon or so of flax seed for a boost. Just make sure to add a tiny bit more milk to balance out the consistency. 

The trick to making great crepes is to have batter that is whisked together really well. Make sure all of the dry ingredients are mixed in completely so that there are no dry clumps. 

Heat up your pan to medium-high heat. You want it hot enough so that butter will sizzle and melt quickly when you put a tab of it in the pan. Make sure your pan is covered with either butter or non stick cooking oil in between each crepe. 

Depending on the size of your pan you'll want to use a measuring cup or ladle to pour the crepe batter into the pan so that each crepe is about the same size and thickness. I would say smaller pans are typically better because the are easier to control. 

Once you pour the batter into the middle of the pan you'll want to swirl the pan around so that the crepe batter spreads out evenly and thinly over the entire surface of the pan. Do it quickly before the batter cooks. When you start to see the middle of the crepe begin to bubble a little or the edges of the crepe start to curl up a bit... it's time to flip that baby over. Like pancakes... the first crepe you make is usually your tester and often times doesn't come out great but it gives you an idea of how the crepe will cook. 

The great thing about crepes is that they go well with so many different foods. You can go the savory route and use cheese, spinach, egg, lox, mushrooms etc. You can also go the sweet route... (which I of course love) and use berries, fruit, jam, powdered sugar, honey, syrup, chocolate sauce or nutella. Personally, nutella with bananas and/or strawberries is my favorite. 

Happy crepe making friends! :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Be a Match... Save a Life

Hello Friends!

I wanted to drop in to share with you a really cool thing I did recently. Last week I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. An employee at the hospital I work at has a child with cancer and is looking for a bone marrow donor that matches his son. It could literally save his life and all it takes from someone like you or me is about 5 minutes of time to sign up on the website marrow.org or bethematch.org.
After signing up it took about one week to receive my kit in the mail.
The kit was packaged well and the directions were very clear and easy to follow.
All you have to do is take a swab of each area of your cheek with four different sterile swabs. You put it in the designated holder, fold over the card and stick it right back in the pre-paid and addressed envelope they send you in the kit.
 One of the reasons I was so excited about registering is because I discovered that there are now new methods to donating. I always thought donating bone marrow was this hugely invasive, painful  procedure... when in reality it is actually equivalent to donating blood!
If you have questions about it check out their myths and facts section on the site.
So, if you have a few minutes... check out bethematch.org and sign up to become a bone marrow donor. You might not ever be a match for someone but if you are, you could save a life!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The World of Teaching

Most of the time I live by impossible standards and I know this. I tend to be meticulous about my environment and my work. I am detailed and methodical. I thrive on routine, I hate change and I don't do well with things that are abstract when it comes to many things in my life.
I am an ICU nurse... detail and a well controlled environment are things we tend to need to be successful at our jobs.

Last week I had the opportunity to stand in as a preceptor for a nursing student that has been on our unit for the past few weeks. It was an interesting experience. When I was approached last year about becoming a student preceptor I was hesitant about the work I would have to put in but also eager for the change and the experience. I remember what it was like to be a nursing student and the ability to be an encouragement to someone who was going through the hellish experience of nursing school was something I looked forward too.

Well let me tell you... teaching is not easy... at all. I have always known that I tend to expect a lot out of the people around me. I have to make a conscious effort to not only focus on the criticism but the praise as well. Now don't get me wrong, I love nothing more than to encourage people and inspire them in what they love doing. I do like teaching in the ways where you can see it "clicking"... that moment when you see the light bulb coming on. It's a great feeling to know that you've invested into someone in ways that are so rewarding. The thing with teaching in nursing though... (and this is probably true in the medical world too) is that we are dealing with people's lives here. It's not a normal educational environment.

You don't have the luxury of making huge mistakes. Especially in the ICU. It's a stressful environment and when it comes to being in charge of a student learning how to navigate that world.... man, is it ever exhausting!

After two 12 hour shifts of having this student with me I was completely worn out! I honestly don't know if it is something I would ever like to do on a regular basis. I will say though that I am thankful I was able to give her some great ICU experiences and it was a good lesson in learning to let go. Learning to step back and let someone figure it out without hovering and micro-managing. I guess we can't always be in control. Probably something I should remember if I ever want to be a mom, huh? :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Honor of a Patriarch.

I have shared on this space many times about the wonderful family I was lucky enough to marry into. It is a very large, very loving group of people who are crazy and fun and welcoming beyond belief. From day one, I felt very comfortable slipping into the mix of people that called this clan their own.... a clan that is now mine too.

The patriarch of our family started a legacy that spreads beyond generations and has branched out all the way to people like me. A girl who came from a very broken and disconnected family... a girl who now has a place to call home... all because of the love of the two people you see in the picture above.

Today, that patriarch is no longer with us. He passed away this morning and our whole family is still in a somewhat state of shock. I have never had a very close family member pass away. I have seen death time and time again... and yet I have never really experienced it. That hole that is created... the new space in your life where something important is now nothing but an empty void.

When we went to the hospital and saw him... even I was unsure of what to expect. I see death all the time and this was no different... except that it was. You go through the motions... the details of the events are familiar to me but the aftermath was not. As I watched the emotions and reactions from everyone around me I could sense that mode of... 'this is life' settled in me. I know this... its familiar.

It wasn't until we started walking out of the hospital that it hit me. This is unchartered territory... where do we go from here? Life will no longer be the same for us... especially for grandma. I remember the first time I had a patient die in the ICU... the patient's wife stood there after saying goodbye to the man she had shared most of her life with.... she stood outside his room and looked at my preceptor and said, "Now what do I do?"

"How do I just go home without him?"

It was this moment of realization. She would not be going home with him... but she wouldn't be coming back here to see him either. She had to move on... but how? How do you just walk away from the love of your life for the last time? How do you leave the hospital with all of his belongings but without him?
This is what settled in my soul as we drove home from the hospital. That gnawing feeling of the numbness wearing off.

Grandpa, I hope you know how much you are loved... I hope you know how special you were to us... and to me. I am so grateful that I had the honor of knowing such an amazing man who created such an incredible family. I will always remember that moment, right after Chris and I said our vows to each other. You reached out to me first and said, "I have to be the first one to congratulate the new Mrs. Heggem!" I think my face said it all... I was officially now a Heggem!

Thank you for that... thank you for being you.

I know that I can take comfort in the fact that you are in peace, in heaven, celebrating with the God you served so faithfully. But for the record.... we miss you dearly, Grandpa and today we grieve the loss of our beloved patriarch.

Rest in Peace.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Nurses Week!

May 6th -May 12th is National Nurses Week. 
If you know a nurse, give him or her a big hug and thank them for what they do because I can verify that this profession is not an easy one to be in. 
It is a job of sacrifice and giving in ways that most people don't truly understand.
I think often times people really have no clue of the knowledge that is required to be a nurse. It is a profession that is demanding physically yes... but mentally also. It takes integrity and a level of compassion that goes above and beyond. It also takes an incredible amount of selflessness. 
To be honest I don't know that there has been many other things in my life where I have had to be as selfless as when I am in my role as a nurse. We put up with a lot folks.... but we are given a lot too.
Even on days when I absolutely hate my job... I still can safely say that there is no other world I'd rather be in. The world of nursing is my home and I am thankful to be in it.

Thank you to my fellow co-workers and to the nurses out there who work tirelessly to serve their patients and their families every day. 
And just for fun....

Still using my coffee mug from last year :)

Happy Nurses Week!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's early Saturday morning and I've just gotten off of work. Three days down, one to go. I have so much to write about ...  about nursing and life and marriage and running.   Yet my eyes can barely stay open and I really should be sleeping. The 50mg of benadryl might have something to do with it. I am fighting it though... like a stubborn child who is exhausted but doesn't want to nap.
So, I will say a brief hello and share with you a photo or two I came across today.

Pictures I hadn't given much thought to because they were taken from the car with my iphone. I was on the way back from my marathon in San Diego last year and the sky was amazing. I see them now and it makes me miss everything. Road trips, running, photography.
Anyways, happy Saturday friends... hope you have a wonderful weekend.