As everyone knows by now, last week State Senator Maureen Walsh made a comment about how nurses must "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." If you have social media or have listened to the news, you know there's been an overwhelming outcry from the public. Nurses, caregivers, family members and strangers everywhere have stood up and spoke out about just how important and incredible the work nurses do everyday is; how they'd never have any time to play cards.
Well, I'm here to say that I've seen a nurse just playing cards to pass the time.
I was sitting in the NICU in a rocking chair, crocheting and staring at my 15-day-old son, long past 10 p.m. when I usually headed home for the evening. I was by myself, having sent my nervous parents home, promising (and lying) saying I'd be just behind them. The next morning Asher would have his first surgery and I wasn't ready to leave him for the evening. Our night nurse poked her head in to check on him. She had taken care of Asher before, several times actually. She had been the one to prep him for surgery two days earlier, only for me to freak out and withdraw consent. I had told her through tears that I just wasn't ready, so she called surgery for me, told them we would have to postpone and then took my son out of my arms while I sobbed and went home for the night, feeling defeated and weak.
Her voice was kind, but worried. Oh, you're still here. Is everything okay? I know she was nervous I was going to back out again. He needed the surgery, we all knew that, but he was so, so small. I couldn't fathom a surgeon cutting into his tiny tummy. I assured her I was okay and that I was ready this time, I just couldn't leave him yet. I knew I wasn't going to sleep anyways, so I might as well not sleep at the hospital.
She asked me what I was crocheting and I told her, embarrassed, that I wasn't crocheting anything. I don't know how to crochet. My older sister, Alyson, had taught me a few days earlier, but I couldn't remember how to turn a stitch. So I crocheted a long strand (I called it a snake) and then pulled out the stitches and started again. I don't know how to crochet, but I need to keep my hands busy.
Our sweet, kind, exhausted nurse sat down next to me and said "well I can't teach you how to crochet, but my shift just ended and I do know how to play speed." She picked up the deck of cards sitting on the table next to me and played with me for the next hour. Long after her shift had ended, long after she had passed off care of my son to the new nurse. She stayed and she played cards to help me pass the time.
State Senator Maureen Walsh, I know you've heard from a lot of people in the last week. I know you're sorry for your comments. You've tried to take them back. I just wanted to tell you that you're right, but you're right for all the wrong reasons. Nurses do play cards, but they do it when their shift has ended. When their responsibility has been passed on to someone else. They play cards when they should be headed home to their own families, to a hot shower and a warm bed. They play cards when they love their job and their patients so much that they stay after their shift to bring a little comfort to a mom who doesn't know how to crochet.
To our nurses, don't ever let anyone downplay your impact. You've saved my son on countless occasions, but you've also saved me. You've held my hand and held me up. You've been there in my darkest times and happiest moments. You are a part of my family in a way I wish I never knew, but am so thankful for. Thank you for playing cards with me. Thank you for giving every single thing you have to care for my son and then giving just a little bit more to care for me as well. Thank you.