On Wednesday this week I attended a lecture at my hospital, a nursing "grand rounds" the topic of which was Nurse/MD relationships. That topic is irrelevant to my post which is more about the speaker, a nurse, Theresa Brown, and the book she has written, called Critical Care - A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between. Briefly, she was an English professor at an Ivy league university who went back to school and became a cancer nurse. Kind of an odd career progression, which gives her a bit of a unique take on the profession. Coupled with her obvious talent for writing, this short book reads like a series of essays, jumping around and digressing here and there, but I found that forgivable because of the engaging and honest nature in which she lays it all out.
I think everyone should read this book. (Yes, even you, my doctor friend, because while you have similar experiences of your own and will not find the topic to be new, I think you would appreciate the humor and prose at least). For the rest of us health care neophytes, however, it softly and gently brushes us up against the shocking, but unarguable, reality of what happens when you get really, really sick and have to rely on complete strangers to save your life......or to just be with you when saving your life turns out not to be in the cards. In truth you are not unlikely to die looking into the eyes of some nurse, who you've never actually met, while your loved one is downstairs in the cafeteria grabbing a coffee or parking the car or calling your family to give them an update.
Her experience is drawn from her first year in cancer care and I appreciated her final take away which, essentially, is "rent the jeep." You know? When you are planning for that vacation.....and you are staring at the list of rental car choices and while the thought of driving around that tropical island in the convertible, top down, hair flying behind you, is enticing for a few seconds, you inevitably settle on the mid-size economy choice because, after all, you should save your pennies for later....... Her point is one we all know. Later turns out to be sooner for many of us, and at that point, the memory of that day in the convertible is more valuable than the money saved.
I live with a cancer survivor who walks around in a perpetual state of carpe diem. Life with someone like that can be very frustrating for someone like me who lives to plan and plans to live. My bank has lots of pennies in it which I will one day apply to all the things on my life "to do" list. His bank has fewer pennies, but he's already checked off pages and pages worth of things he has already done on his list. I know what Theresa Brown would say about my strategy.....banking on time is penny wise and pound foolish.