"To get to love the person, we must come in close contact with him... I believe in person to person; every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is only one person in the world for me at that moment."
He was a sixty-something, chronically-afflicted-with-many ailments, frightened man gasping for breath. He was pale and diaphoretic with a rapid pulse, and the portable O2 sat machine he sported was registering in the 70's. The flight crew had assigned a young crew member to assist me and upon obtaining a set of vitals, I immediately asked him for portable oxygen, and how much do we have on this plane? After getting him on some oxygen I performed as quick a history and physical as I could, reporting my findings to a medevac nurse on the ground via another crew member. The gasping man wanted to talk. You see, as soon as I knelt in front of him and placed my hands on him, his breathing began to slow. He wanted to tell me about himself. I couldn't let him expend oxygen he didn't have to spare, so I kept firm control of the conversation. As his O2 sats slowly (too slowly for my comfort) began to rise (eventually to low 90's) with the supplemental oxygen, I rewarded him by letting him share more verbally. Medevac nurse and I determined we would not have to make an emergency landing provided he remained stable. There would be emergency services waiting for him on the tarmac when we landed.
So I listened as he shared. The more he talked, the calmer and pinker he became. He lived alone, but had friends who, ( unbeknownst to me) were on that very plane traveling with him. His world had become small as he daily felt the limitations of chronic illness. He had good doctors that were attending to his many, many needs. And he was very grateful I was there. Very grateful.
After signing various papers (and thinking, 'really? there was no one else on this plane that could have done this?'), I returned to my seat for the remainder of the flight. I knew the whole thing could have gone sideways. I had been mentally going through my ACLS protocols. He was not a well man. I was shaken but relieved that, for the moment, he was alive. He didn't die on my watch. I then allowed myself to feel the satisfaction you get from doing something you love to do. And I realized, I do love being a nurse.
When we deboarded, the medical responders were waiting for my patient, as promised. As they were situating him, his friends saw me coming into the terminal. One yelled, "Hey Doc!", as he energetically waved to me, and then, "Hey, thanks Doc!". And my patient caught my eye and gave me a smile and a wave. I smiled back and told him to take care. Part of me wanted to correct him, "I'm not a doctor -- just a nurse (yikes! and not even a registered one!)" That confusion has happened before, as sometimes it will, in critical situations where it can be hard for patients and their families to keep track of who is who on the health care team. But in a way, that guy named me that day.
I didn't realize it then, but I was being called back into nursing. My horizon is changing in a way I did not see coming. Interestingly, a certain restlessness, that I had been struggling with for some time, has now quieted. I had been wondering "what do I want to be when I grow up?", and I now know I want to be what I've already been: a nurse. It's true that this time around, I'd like to treat and care for my patients before they get to intensive care. It's true, I've decided to get more education to be able to make that happen. Ironically, doing so will earn me the title of Doctor, as in I will be a Doctor of Nursing Practice. I will do many of the same things physicians do, yes, but I will continue to be, and be very proud to be... just a nurse.
I still homeschool my kids. I will happily finish what I started there. One thing I have found hard to teach is the idea of vocation. Now I see that it will not be taught as much as it already has been, and will be, modeled. So while I study Latin, Logic, Science and Literature alongside my kids, I also study nursing and statistics (for re-entry and for grad school). As I talk to my son about how to prepare his college applications, I am preparing mine! At the end of the day, I will know I have done what I was meant to do. I have a long way to go to reach my end goals, but I have long-ago learned that what God calls me to He will prepare me for.