During my nostalgic crisis going through old pictures, I took aside a very special one and hung it on my wall to keep the memory alive. I have seen this picture many times before, but I had never noticed the details, the facial expressions and their meaning. The picture was taken one year after my brother's adoption.
I am staring again at the picture, and I can see myself there, cozy in my bed under a red flowery duvet, lying next to my two brothers, Pedro and Lucas. Pedro is very close to me and we both smile with contentment. Lucas shows signs of being sleepy, probably wishing for a good night of sleep. It looks like a winter night as we have warm pajamas on and enjoy the closeness. I just wish my hair was not so messy!
I was probably reaching seven years old at the time of the picture, having started first grade at a public school, three blocks away from our apartment. I was still getting used to the idea of attending such a big school away from home. My previous experience with schools had been going to a small kindergarten, across the street from our building, where there were probably not more than 10 kids in my class, and only one other girl besides me. So indeed, it was a big adjustment.
As I stare at the picture, I hear a thousand words, captured with a click. These were some good childhood times, with a safe distance from adulthood, away from many worries. My main responsibility was to do well at school and show good behavior.
Lately, as a professional, there are so many more decisions on my hands, some that I will probably regret of taking later on. I know that what I am going through now, the fact that I will have to admit in my unit a child with a disease that is still unknown, is a decision from which I can't hide or run away. But I have decided to take on the challenge and face what may follow. This morning, I could sense the weight on my team's thoughts as they were getting ready for the new patient. All of us have already received a quick training from the specialists and learned some information about the disease; we also have the special isolated room ready to go. But there are still many unanswered questions.
I called all of my team to a special meeting as we had to choose the main people that were going to oversee the case. I did not want to force anyone to start with the direct care, but felt like leaving to those that felt more comfortable taking on the challenge. Some had come to talk to me privately sharing their concern of risking their lives while they have families at home to support. However, one experienced person in our team told me that he would like to take on the case, so I will leave the case to him at first.
We are vulnerable but we also know that we have many protective barriers to be used. The isolated bedroom is specially built to keep the inside air from coming outside, paired with a system of filters to decrease contamination, besides all the individual masks and body surface covers.
It will surely not be the best humanized care, as the patient is being cared by people covered from head to toe, that look more like astronauts than real human beings. A barrier of gowns, glasses, masks, gloves will make it difficult for any emotional exchange during care. But there is no other way; it is our goal to stop the spreading of something that could take away many lives. On the bright side, the isolated bedroom contains many children's art painted on its walls creating a space of hope and beauty to overcome the sadness. I wish the ceiling was also covered with art, as most of the time the sick children have the ceiling as their only horizon.
Later on this morning, I got a call informing that the child will be on her way to our hospital tomorrow; a special ambulance will be responsible for the transfer and they will arrive early on my shift. The child is a little girl that has been under observation in her hometown hospital since she started to show some specific symptoms of this disease. However, they don't have the appropriate settings to prevent contamination, so it was decided that she needed to be transferred to our more equipped setting. Her case has not yet been confirmed with 100% surety to be the unknown disease, because a big part of the diagnosis depends on the symptoms, but we are going to take care of her with the precautions as if she was already a confirmed case.
The unit seems to be under regressive counting. We all know that if the case is confirmed we could be the first ones to treat such disease in our country and our team could even enter history as the heroes that gave their lives to save humanity. Maybe my name will be quoted next to Florence Nightingale or Ana Néri, as a nurse that made a difference. Or maybe, after having given our lives, we may just be forgotten. One way or another, I know that nursing is more than just a call; it is also a profession like many others where you have to study a lot and be qualified. Compassion, emotions and emphatic feelings are very important but it is not all about that, there is also professionalism and competence.
Once in a while, while in school, to break free from so much technical knowledge, I enjoyed reading poetry, and also writing some. I once read an article that stated that the unconscious is able to open up through poetry. The article got me thinking, so I tried to write poetry using only my unconscious side (or at least that is how I like to think), not bringing up any conscious thoughts, but just letting the mind run free and writing down whatever words came out, following a rhythm.
At first, I was not successful, but after some practice I was surprised by the results of such activity. Distant words gathered together and brought up beautiful meaning. After all, I guess the article was right, the unconscious really opens up when we allow it, and inside its content there is much more than I ever imagined. Or that or I am gifted with this unusual art and should find a way to turn it into profit!
After practicing with a few "unconscious" poems, I decided to find out what was inside my unconscious brain about nursing. I dedicated the poem "To the Florence Nightingales" and started to work on it. (If you are unfamiliar with Florence Nightingale, I suggest that you look up her name, as learning about her life will help you to understand better the content of the poem) The words first came out confusing, however, after finishing it and reading it, I realized that there was some meaning and beauty about the history of nursing inside my unconscious!
To the Florence Nightingales
Whitewashed figures around spaces,
Forming fractions of performance,
Interdict each burst of terror,
Fear, anguish and longing.
Handling injured aspects,
Confused with the fatal scenario,
Delivering trapped sweetness,
In chest captive smiles.
Feelings being spread, hungry,
For the desire of pure care,
Facilitated by the emphatic forms,
Fitted with a winged character.
The touch of high heels in motion,
Evoke powerful spells,
Capable of socializing weepings,
Constrained to the bed mourning.
The power is not limited to the contained,
In the powder, liquid or instrument,
But to the fine manners, to the respect,
For the other, being, subject.
Rewards, excluded of gains,
Summarized by the look, by the satisfaction,
From faces illuminated by the spirit,
Of the givers of contentment.
My poetry phase has already ended, but I learned that maybe I could use this same resource with my patients. To restore from their unconscious, treasures that could free them from the pain their conscious is feeling, opening their perception so they can hear what they are telling themselves.