The ICU is filled with wisdom.
Now, the type of wisdom I’m talking about isn’t the kind you find from doctors or nurses about health care, but from the patients and their families. They are the ones that are ultimately unable to detach themselves from the experience, which means that they are the ones that have their lives shaken up like a good martini.
And like a martini, the substance after the shake is usually what matters. Everything else ends up going down the drain.
I’ve done a mere 14 shifts so far… that doesn’t amount to much, but here are some nuggets that I’ve been told by patients and their loved ones. I’ve done my best to write them down. They may not be verbatim, but they’re pretty close to what was said:
1. “Life is about love. It doesn’t matter how rich you are or how healthy you are… if you are unable to show love, then your life is meaningless.”
2. “Don’t wait until you’re as sick as I am (said the patient) to say, ‘Now I’m REALLY going to live,’ just start living and if and when you really get sick, you can face it with no regrets.”
3. “Make sure you tell those you love that you love them… every chance you get. And if they get tired of hearing it, then say it some more.”
4. “Life is like golf. A few degrees here, a few degrees there… and look what a huge difference it makes. But what’s important is that you take a swing.”
5. “Kids will never do what you want them to do, even when they’re heavily sedated.”
6. “The secret to life is to love what you do and to do what you love.”
7. “I’m going to be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day until (the patient) gets well enough to carry me out of this hospital.”
8. “It’s funny how little everything else matters when you realize you could be losing someone you love.”
9. “I will never take my health for granted again.”
10. “Always ask yourself, ‘What is my intended result?’ And if what you’re doing doesn’t lead you to that result, then stop what you’re doing. It’s that simple.”
11. “Sit down and talk to me for just a minute. Believe me, that’ll help me more than all the drugs you can offer me right now.”
12. “It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. I don’t know what that exactly is, but I’m guessing that somewhere in there, you have to genuinely care about people.”
13. “Don’t be afraid to be confident. That’s the only way you’ll learn.”
14. “It’s hard to talk so I have to choose my words carefully. If only I sound this smart when I’m NOT sick.”
15. “Slow down, son! God gave you time so you could take it!”
16. “Does worrying about what is going to happen mean anything when it happens? No. All it means is that you worried about the sky being blue tomorrow.”
Like I said, the ICU is full of wisdom. In all honesty, I think I’m learning more about life than I am about anything else.
Just goes to show you how little I know.
By the way, this is how many steps I took during my shift last Tuesday…