A Thank-you Note to an Awesome Nurse
Deirdre Mylod, PhD, Vice President, Improvement Services, Press Ganey Associates
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I’m sure you don’t remember me. You also likely don’t remember my mom, whom you prepped for aortic valve replacement surgery at North Shore-LIJ Manhasset Campus five years ago. But I remember you. I talk about you all the time in national presentations as well as internal staff education workshops. You came to work that day and treated us the way you likely treat the rest of your patients, but I wonder if you have any idea about how good you really are at what you do.
You probably didn’t know that this was another round in a long line of cardiac issues, procedures and surgeries that my mom has endured. You also didn’t know that since my mom had high blood pressure in her 30s, a heart attack in her 40s and her first triple bypass before she was 50, she’s always assumed that she would “go early.” You might not have realized that even though my mom has white hair and a sweet smiling face that makes some people underestimate her, she also has a doctorate in English and an amazing knowledge of everything from fractal theory to Deanna Durbin show tunes. She does the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. She also has a very high need for control and a disdain for people who call her “honey.”
You had no idea that I’d travelled home to New York leaving my husband, my 3-year-old and a 14-month-old for a planned two weeks to help my mom after surgery. You weren’t there the night before when mom and I sat in the kitchen and joked and gossiped and then got down to business. In our Irish household we’re very open about death, and we talked about everything, including that if she died in surgery she’d be buried in the dress she wore to my wedding. You didn’t see us write out two lists: the first was for those I was to call when mom’s surgery was done to let them know she did great, the second list was whom I was to call if she died (including her high school, so that she could appear in the newsletter).
We drove the 20 minutes to the hospital that morning and Mom went up to her room while I made a call and Dad parked the car. You didn’t see me walk down the hall or the apprehension on my face as I entered the room. The apprehension was caused by the fact that you were in my mom’s personal space and holding her hand with both of yours. I thought surely you were about to call my mom “honey,” and that things would go downhill from there. Instead, my mom turned to me as I stood in the doorway – not for a second letting go of you – and slowly repeated to me what you had just finished saying to her:
“Dede, this is Lorna … and she is going to take care of me.”
You don’t know what that meant to each of us. Mom was no longer in charge. I was no longer in charge. You and your colleagues were, and you were definitively taking that baton of responsibility from us and assuring us we were in the right hands. Something was palpably lifted from me so that I could just be my mom’s daughter and a very scared family member. You then went on to do everything right. You told us everything that was going to happen. You asked if we wanted lots of information or just a little information. You bantered back and forth with my dad. You made sure each of us knew what we needed to know. You warned me that when I reached out to hold my mom’s hand after the surgery, she would feel cold as if she were dead, but that was normal and I shouldn’t be scared. You were efficient and friendly and competent and smart and kind. But you started it all by making sure we all felt safe and cared for.
You have no idea how grateful I am to you.
P.S.: My mom and dad now live nearby in Indiana, and my kids love hanging out with their grandparents.