It’s so nice to have a nurse in the family

(Columbus Telegram) Six years ago our daughter was a patient in the intensive care unit.

This month she graduates with a nursing degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

We are so proud of her, of course. I know Emily must have a real passion for nursing because, frankly, a work wardrobe consisting of cartoon-covered smocks and running shoes doesn’t really fit my fashionista daughter.

The frosting on the graduation cake is that now she can replace me as the family medical advisor, the one everyone goes to when their head hurts or stomach aches or they have a weird rash. The one they want to look between their toes and in other odd places.

It’s a thankless, demanding, and sometimes disgusting job. I should know. I’ve had it for 23 years.

Exhibit A: My oldest son calls last month to tell me he has this weird sore in his mouth that won’t go away. He wants to know if he should text me a photo of it. I tell him thanks but no thanks, and to try rinsing with salt water.

Exhibit B: My college freshman texts me from college to say he discovered a lump near his sternum. He’s never noticed it before. He wants to know what I think it is.

When he comes home the following weekend I take a look at it. Yep, it feels like a bump or a lump. (Is there a difference?) When he visits Urgent Care to have it checked out, the doctor tells him that’s part of his sternum and yes, it’s supposed to be there. He then adds, probably to make my son feel less like an idiot and to lessen the shock of the bill for something that’s perfectly normal, that it’s good to check out things that don’t seen right.

But then there’s Exhibit C two years ago when my then 14-year-old had a nasty-looking rash on the side of his face. We figured it would go away eventually, but instead it kept getting worse. Turns out it was shingles, and it would’ve been better had we taken him in sooner.

Yeech. Sometimes it’s just a guessing game. So, yes, I’m happy to turn the family medical charts over to my daughter, who will certainly make more educated guesses than me and my trusty assistant, WebMD.

Besides, she’s also way more sympathetic than me and WebMD. In fact, last fall when my husband got the flu it was Emily who came home from college one weekend just to take care of him. I tried to nurse him, sort of, but it’s really hard to take care of someone when you’re avoiding having any direct contact with them.

Naturally, this led my daughter to lecture us both about the getting flu shots. And how we drink too much diet soda and eat too much red meat. Things we already know but just choose to ignore.

Her empathy surely comes in part from all the times when she’s been a patient herself. She managed to make more emergency room visits than any of her four brothers. Broken finger that led to surgery. Broken arm. Stitches. Head staples. Cysts. And then, when she was 16, the time in the ICU when she had to have emergency surgery after developing a peritonsillar abscess about the size of a lemon as a complication from mono. If left untreated, it could have killed her. It’s one of my most frightening times as a parent, seeing my daughter intubated and sedated in ICU.

But along the way, we had kind and compassionate nurses who were the human side to the sterile hospital rooms and doctors. They were knowledgeable and reassuring, and unknowingly became mentors to our daughter.

Good nurses are the emotional hand to hold when you’re scared and vulnerable. I became so attached to some of my labor and delivery nurses that it’s possible I shamelessly pleaded with them to stay after their shift ended. And when my kids were little and I was taking one of them into the doctor’s office every two minutes it seemed, it was the nurses who consoled both me and my sick child.

Nurses are a calming presence. Last fall when my husband and I were midflight on a plane, the teenage girl right behind our seats had a seizure. When a nurse on board stepped forward to help, there was a visible sense of relief from everyone around us.

Of course, now that Emily’s four (actually, five) years of education are behind her, her real on-the-job education is just beginning. Hopefully she’ll have patients who are patient with her. Hopefully she won’t have patients who look at her like I did the dental surgeons graduating with her, the ones who looked like they should be should be playing Ding Dong Ditch and not handling drills and sharp instruments.

My daughter will make a great nurse. She is kind and compassionate and cheerful, exactly the kind of person you would want to be taking care of you.

And I have no doubt she will somehow manage to turn tho

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