As a nurse I know what I can do and what I can't.
I know how to be a strong, compassionate presence in the home of a dying person.
I know how to respond quickly when patients get into a pain crisis or struggle to breathe.
I know how to work with the system to get a patient what they need.
I know how to listen to the grief of family members and not bring it home.
I know what it means to watch a human die.
And I know that absolutely none of the above apply when the death involves a child.
Adults and children are such entirely different animals to me. I am okay with adults, even the younger adults (though I won't say that's not hard). But children are where I draw my invisible nursing line. This restricts me in some ways, in nursing ways. I can't be the go-anywhere hospice nurse because of this caveat. But I don't care, because I can't and I know it.
We recently admitted a 23 month old child, exact same age as Ellie, and I was not her nurse, yet as I left the hospital I broke down crying. I transported myself to that child's hospital room and touched upon That Grief. Do you know what I mean when I say That Grief? If you've ever lost someone important then you may. It's the kind of grief that feels like a bottomless pit of despair and sadness, from which you wonder if you will ever recover. It's so unbearably heavy. Anyway I thought about myself, crying as I drove down the road and I didn't even see this child. Yet I was so profoundly affected by this patient that it just drove the point home: I can't take care of kids. I don't want to be a peds nurse and I especially don't want to be a peds hospice nurse. No. Way. In. Hell.
Being involved in so much death does add up in incremental ways and sometimes I just need to go and have a really good run, or a really good cry to help release it. I've feel I've done a good job incorporating some balance into my life and that balance is a finely tuned skill that you just have to learn from experience. Being a nurse to a dying child would tilt that balance so much that I just don't think I could handle it. Maybe I could have before I had Ellie. Before I felt That Love.
I would like to personally thank all of those pediatric nurses, NICU nurses and hospice nurses that take care of the young. Thank you for taking on that incredibly hard and emotionally challenging job. I truly appreciate you.