Updated: Apr 11, 2020
How do I begin to explain my gratitude to Saint Luke’s Neurological Center? They saved my life twice and they did it with essence that many medical centers should take heed to. I’ve thanked them on several occasions, but I want to carve out a special section for each group that took care of me.
Nurses are characteristic to make you comfortable and take care of you. I'm very aware of this and have encountered nurses several times because of various medical issues that sent me to the hospital. The nurses at the Neuroscience ICU are a different breed. They make the world brighter and close the shade on self-doubt and loathing. During my time in the ICU on two different occasions, I had a rotation of over 12 nurses, and I remember each of their names because they were hard to never forget.
On the first day downtown in the ICU after the physicians left, two nurses walked in. I cringed because I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. They gently approached me and told me their names with a serene smile on their faces. One rubbed my arm and said, “You’ve been through a bad night”, “Don’t worry, we will take great care of you”. It wasn’t her words so much that struck me although it meant a lot, it was the human compassion of touch. Her rubbing my arm was like a mother stroking their child as they laid crying in their laps. My body relaxed and my mind went to Zen, which at that point I didn’t think would happen so quick. They explained to me that I will be seeing their faces a great deal in either 15 minute or hourly intervals for neurological checks. “That’s ok”, I told myself. My angels asked me if I needed more blankets to keep me warm, food, or anything else to make me comfortable. I asked for a blanket and apologized (something I did a lot of during my time there). The nurse looked over at me and said, “No need to apologize for anything here”. She hustled down the hallway and came back with a couple of hot blankets, tucking me in and repositioning my head for comfort. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship of my team of angels. I could write a novel about them, but I will highlight different ways they changed my mindset.
1. They gave me encouragement when I felt down, which was plenty. Each one could see when I struggled with something even without me saying it. They would tell me I’m a fighter, warrior, strong and special. Those words fueled my fire to get me out of my funk and fight.
2. They empathized with me during scary moments. Whether it was prepping for an angiogram, surgery, or pain, each nurse showed me empathy and showered me with love. They took away moments where my blood pressure could’ve gone south and leveled me to a better mindset that I needed to prep for those scary moments. Again, each nurse would always rub my arm and said I will be waiting for you when you get back.
3. They talked to me like there was a tomorrow. I had the grim information that my first surgery could result in death. As I cried, one of the nurses reached for a tissue box and began talking to me like tomorrow is going to be there. She asked me what I would want to eat the next day. She didn’t once make it feel like this was the last day. I desperately searched for that. My family told me this on several occasions, but from a healthcare worker, it means something different.
4. When my dignity began to flatten because of my hair, scars, inability to use the restroom on my own, and a series of other things, each one of the nurses gave me my dignity back. They assured me this is not new to them, so don’t fear doing things or being yourself. I was no longer embarrassed to have them watch me use the restroom. They would turn their backs or look to the left and tell jokes to make the moment less awkward. When I began a pity party of my looks, they would tell me they see a beautiful person inside and out.
5. When the shift change happened, I didn’t dread it because it would be a familiar face or someone new that had the same ethic as the other nurses. I still have joy to this day remembering them tell the other nurses after going over my history that they will love me.
6. Not only was I the patient they were supposed to take care of, they also were concerned about the well being of my family. My mom never left my side and would sleep in a chair almost every night next to me, some nights my mother-in-law. The nurses would ask her how she was doing, fetch her warm blankets and see if there was anything, they could do to make her comfortable.
7. After much resistance, the nurses were able convince me to get out of bed to get my Bambi legs moving around for a walk. They would hold my hand as I started and then slowly let go and give me praise for making it down the hallway. Eventually I got to a point where I was racing around the floor. With each walk, we would talk about our personal lives and then stop by the window and look over the park. Both of us taking in the beauty and forgetting that it was a nurse/patient relationship but instead, a friendship.
8. When I went back to the ICU for the second time in March, the nurses where all happy to see me. Side note- after my first stay, I was so happy with the care I received that I called an administrator and left a message detailing how wonderful this group was. Once situated, one of my previous nurses came over to me and told me that they had a meeting and the administrator played my message to them and it brought tears. This made me so happy because I wanted them to know that they are above and beyond the best nurses. Soon all the nurses stopped by saying they were sorry I was back but happy to see my face.
9. The second surgery was more brutal than the first and I complained more than ever. They didn’t care that I was upset, they wanted me to let it out and assured me that they were there to take care of me both physically and mentally.
The Saint Luke’s ICU nurses are above par when it comes to care and I thank them with all my heart helping me get through this long journey. I don’t know how I can ever repay them, but I wish them nothing but happiness because that’s something the gave me.
Neurosurgeon and Team
Boy did I hit the lottery with my neurosurgeon- she’s the perfect mixture of brutal honesty coated with compassion. The nurses affectionately call her the Tiger lady because she works several hours saving people. To explain the Tiger lady, she operated on someone for 24 hours before my 10.5-hour surgery! When she popped in to see me before I was wheeled off, you would’ve thought she just go back from vacation.
From the start, I don’t remember our first encounter because I was out of it. The next morning, she came into my room to check on me and asked if I remembered her. She suddenly smiled and my memory came back that I vaguely remember her face and voice. She explained to me what happened and her plan. She said she would not give up until she found the source of my bleeding. She tugged at my feet and said, “I will take great care of you”. In the days of laying in my bed, I look forward to her visits. She nicknamed me sunshine because I was always smiling and happy when she arrived. She told me we would be together forever because of my condition. I was thrilled because for the first time, I had a doctor that cared deeply about their patients. I can’t even describe her calm voice or smile, but it’s remarkable for a patient who is scared out of their mind. With each angiogram and surgery, she explained everything thoroughly so I would understand the procedures and risks. I’ve had procedures where a pamphlet was given out with minor details and off the doctor went. Not my angel, she was different.
Her team was exceptional too. They would trail in after she was finished and comfort me as they assessed me- always with a smile! When I was prepped for angiograms or surgeries, they were the front lines, the first faces I saw. When I was transferred over to the operating table, they would ensure me that everything was going to be ok and they were there for me. They also rubbed my arm and comforted me. Again, that human touch that a scared person desperately needs. Each one of them mean a lot to me, and I hope they understand that they played a vital part in my recovery.
Back to my angel, the Tiger lady, she saved me. She saved me more than once and on the second occasion, made sure to stop by the room before she left for the day to make sure I understood hydrocephalus and that I was mentally ok, and that she would once again make sure she would do what she does best- save lives. I owe her so much. She is outstanding, special, informational, compassionate and excited. During my re-checks in her office, she would make me feel normal for all these odd feelings I had. She would marvel at her stitching. Another side-note- she purposely stitched me together from nmy first surgery so I would never see the scars once my hair grows back. She said she understood what that meant as woman. That means a lot to me. Her office staff is equally the canvas of care. The reception area is greeted with happy employees. None of them disgruntled, fed up, with attitude that so many of us encounter. Her nurses in her office mimic the same nurses at the ICU- kind and compassionate. I don’t know how many times I have called with each weird feeling or medication question. Her nurse would call me back and in a loving voice repeat the information from the Tiger lady. She told me to never be afraid to call with questions. My most recent visit with my angel, was to pull the several staples from the back of my head. I still replay her coming in with a smile on her face and telling me I look great. As I talked, she said the speed of my voice is back to normal. She just sat back and marveled at my accomplishment. Again, she is the best doctor I could ask for and I’m glad she is the one I will see for the rest of my life. Again, a massive thank you for saving my life with compassion.
Yes, I’m thanking them. These wonderful souls came into my room every single day to clean and instead of ignoring me, they talked to me. They gave me humor that I needed. Some of them sang gospel and some of them said they would pray for me. I look forward to their visits everyday because I knew it would be a burst of sunshine. They don’t have to do that. They could clean the room and move on, but they decided to invest time into me, and I did the same back, asking about their day and their lives. They are exceptional and deserve praise. They have my upmost respect.
In conclusion, if you ever have a neurological issue, Saint Luke’s Downtown is Grade A when it comes to care.