Friday, April 18, 2008

End of the Week Update:

My last 2 days at worked sucked. Wed I was in a terrible mood and I had to take care of 2 depressing cases. One kid will never leave the hospital and the other is neurologically devastated and will be on a vent forever. I kept thinking that his case sounded familiar but I didn't work in the PICU when he was initially injured. At 3pm, the evening secretary came in and enlightened me-I had assessed him for organ donation a year and a half ago when he came in. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, he still has a little bit of brain stem left-just enough to give him clonus every so often.

Yesterday was worse and I had to stay late to catch up. My day was going swimmingly until I had to take a 2 hour road trip to specials AND got an admission, a fresh post-op, at the same time. And I pissed off the fellow, who's already pretty pissy if you ask me. Ah, well. I did get my starting date, finally, for the new job, April 28th. Then I guess I can start bitching to the anonymous innernets about that job.

Anyhoo, now that I've vented-thanks innernets!- We've got two carnivals this week:

Grand Rounds was Tuesday at Women's Health News. Next week it's at Dr. Val.

Also, this week, Change of Shift was up at Nurse Sean's.

Enjoy the reading...I'll be back at work all weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I want to tell you a story. You may think you know the people involved, especially if you’ve been in health care for any period of time. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a lot of stories from my years as a nurse, mostly because I’ve been working with an awesome and funny agency nurse who keeps egging me on. Narcissist that I am, I happily oblige her. This, however, is one person’s story in particular.

It’s the story of an average girl, from an average family. By all accounts she was funny, even irreverent, smart, sassy and full of energy. She was opinionated. She had a lot of friends. If you were to look into her future, you might see college and a career, a family, some kids. Maybe she had something really big coming down the pike-like she’d write a famous novel or develop a cure for a major illness. At 17 years old, on the verge of womanhood, I’m sure she thought about her future a lot.

I’m not sure any of us understand why sometimes children die. I like to think that the children who come into our lives only to be taken away too soon come with a purpose. They teach us to love, they teach us to make every day count and most of all they teach us that to be human is an impermanent state, as fleeting as butterflies. Or perhaps that’s just my rational mind searching for meaning to a meaningless tragedy. In any event, on this day eight years ago, this 17 year old girl died.

I will never meet Kari. At best, I can get an idea of who she was and who she might have become through the people who knew her. Yet, this 17 year old, who died eight years ago today, has touched my life. She’s touched a lot of lives, people that she never knew in places she could never imagine. Think about it-if you died today, do you think that your life would have meaning to anyone beyond your circle of family and friends? So many of the things we do, as human beings, are done to insure that something- some part of us, will live on after we die: great works of art are created, books are written, children are born. You can take the poorest among us or the most powerful and all want to be remembered, to leave behind a legacy.

If Kari had lived her life exactly as she did, she would have left behind a legacy of love and happiness and that would have been enough. But Kari did one thing more. She had already told her parents that if she died, she wanted to be an organ donor. Sure, her parents probably thought, never thinking that they’d actually have to honor that request. But they did. When Kari died, someone had to approach that family and ask them, in the midst of their grief, to donate her organs and they, in the midst of their grief, said yes.

You would think that that would be an easy and straightforward decision. But her parents didn’t have to say yes. There’s also a possibility that her parents wouldn’t have been asked. The road to requesting organ donation is more complicated than most may realize. The hospital may not have called in the referral to the organ procurement organization. They may have said to the family-there’s nothing more to be done, let’s just pull the plug and let her go. The nurses may have thought-what’s the use, this patient is dead or going to die, and not been vigilant in maintaining her organ function. Instead, in those hours as Kari became brain dead, calls were made, support was provided, information was given and a whole host of people, some of whom will never realize it, made the organ donation happen. From many, to one, back to many, Kari’s donation became like a stone thrown in a lake, the ripples carrying the legacy of her life farther and farther from its original impact.

I know about Kari because her lungs now live in my friend Steve. I know I talk a lot about the fact that people shouldn’t have to be proven “worthy” in order to receive a transplant, but if there’s a person out there who’s more worthy of those lungs, I’ve yet to find him. In eight years Steve has become the head cheerleader of the “Keep Kari’s Memory Alive” team. I always knew he was filled with gratitude. Although he’s very vocal about how much his transplant has transformed his life, it was his unspoken actions that showed me the depth of his devotion: on his key ring is a little sandal with one word on it-Kari.

I don’t know how many people Steve has touched in his life, but if you walk the streets of Chicago with him, you’d think he was the mayor. Someone once told me that gratitude is an action word and watching him in action is a lesson in how to live life. When I get to feeling sorry for myself, I write to Steve and soon I’m wondering what the hell I’m moping around about. And Steve is one person. Kari donated several of her organs-each one touching a life, each life touching the people around them, and those around them until, until what? I don’t know, but if you want to know what love to the infinity squared looks like, think of Kari. That’s a legacy any of us would be proud to leave behind.
*photo by Howard Thompson

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Starting the new job....someday soon?

Well, I'm not sure when I'm starting the new job. It might be as soon as next Monday, but certainly no later than the end of the month. By hospital policy, I have to give my old job 4 weeks notice from the day I put in for a transfer. My old boss can ask for a couple more weeks saying it's a hardship and they need more time to replace me. Now the new boss and the old boss are "debating" it out with administration to see who needs me more. In my younger days it would have been thrilling to have two guys fight over me (hah, never happened), but this may be more satisfying.

Last Friday I did attent an education day for the transplant department and I got all excited about starting the new job. So excited that I went shopping. Because in this job, I get to wear CLOTHES! (As opposed to scrubs, you know what I mean). With summer coming up, new shoes may be in my future, also. No, seriously, Love Monkey, I got rid of TONS of shoes last year and I have hardly any in my closet. I desperately need some summer sandals.

In tranplant news, this blog is allegedly about transplantation, my friend PJ has a coupla posts on recent organ donation cases. I'll leave it to him to fill you in this week on actual blog content, while I go back to thinking about shoes.

Oh, yeah, I had another blog I wanted to link to: my friend Ramona at Suture for a Living had a post on the first full face transplant in France recently. Last year at the AOPO conference I went to a lecture on face transplant. Full of graphic color photos, I'm just glad it wasn't a "lunch and learn." I used to think that I would draw the line on donating my face, but when you see what type of deformities these people have, well, I'd want to be able to give them a somewhat normal life if I could. Face transplants would be for people who have severe burns or deformites or trauma to the face, things like missing lips and noses. I think I remember hearing about one woman who hadn't seen her own grandchildren in years because they were so afraid of her. Interesting topic, they're looking for the right opportunity to do it here, but as you can imagine, people aren't exactly lining up to donate their face. It's hard enough to get people to donate the non-visible parts of them.

Anyways, I'll let you know when I start the new job.