A few years ago I got the chance to work on Labour and Delivery. It had always been a dream of mine and when the opportunity came along I jumped at the chance. I spent a year and a half there until I was pregnant with my third, my temporary line was up, and I was 23 weeks and spotting. I headed back to NICU for shorter shifts and lighter lifting (and hopefully fewer nightmares of bleeding to death!)
In that year and a half, I had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing nurses I have had the joy of working with. All nurses work hard, but labour and delivery requires a special person. You are there for the best day in people’s lives and sometimes the worst. It’s physically demanding and emotionally draining and you must always be on your toes because things change in a moment.
Those nurses are with their patients often from start of shift to end. While they coach and support emotionally, they are also busy teaching, all while keeping a sharp eye out for the slightest sign that things are going wrong physically. To work there takes the utmost medical skill as well as a kind and caring, strong personality.
It was in that time that I met Kelly, she embodied to me everything that an amazing nurse should be. She would come on always ready to work. Energetic even on nights, kind and confident. She was friendly and I remember her talking about plans for her upcoming wedding.
After leaving Labour and Delivery I was glad that working NICU I still often got to pop back in and say hello to the nurses I had met and worked with. When I saw last week first that Kelly was sick, then that she had died I was heartbroken.
It was everything about this world that makes me long to believe there must be something more, something else. How can someone so beautiful be gone in a moment, leaving behind her babies, the love of her life, her sisters, her parents, her friends?
I ached for our world losing such an amazing soul. I thought of her family going through what no one should have to go through. I remembered all my co-workers from Labour and Delivery and watched them grieve on my facebook feed the loss of a dear friend and colleague.
I also read her blog. In the short week, she was diagnosed she immediately turned to words to sort out how she was feeling and to share her story.
She embodied courage and in total nurse fashion wanted to raise awareness and use her story to help others. Her writing reminded me of something I try to focus on when I’m working, that you never know what someone is going through, a reminder to treat everyone with kindness (just as Kelly would have done.)
From the US tech who didn’t seem to give her credit for managing to get there with babies, to the resident who seemed to minimize her pain. I hope that everyone who reads her blog is reminded that there are always layers and layers under the first impression our patients give us when we first encounter them. Also, that even small gestures of kindness go a long way to those who are scared, worried or stressed.
It’s hard to reconcile a life seemingly cut so short and I’ve thrown a thought heavenward more than once of “really?!?” but ultimately she is gone and just like I see everyday at work from NICU and Pediatrics to Labour and Delivery, life rarely seems fair.
I’m left with how can I honour a life so well lived?
I’m grateful for the privilege of having known and worked with Kelly even for such a short time. Reading her obituary I can see that her life touched many as short as it was. It’s a reminder that none of us knows how many days we have and as cliche as it often sounds, we choose how we spend them.
Even in her last days, her thoughts were of others, taking care of her family and using her own pain to reach out.
I still get a twisted knot of stone in my stomach when I think about the pain of those close to her, a circle that is as large as her heart was. I also know that her husband and her babies will be taken care of. I’ve seen the support pour in for them and watched her coworkers and family circle around. I’ve marvelled at the layers of support as our NICU raised money to send support and condolences to the nurses in Labour and Delivery we work so closely with and her family.
A loving and generous spirit is contagious. Kelly’s life was far shorter than it should be, but in these past few days, I’ve sat and watched the ripples spread far and wide of her influence.
It doesn’t make it all ok. It still makes me mad and sad and sick all at the same time that someone younger than me could be snatched from this world from something as nasty as cancer days after one of her 3 babies was discharged from PICU leaving behind littles who need her, a husband who loved her. I want to scream “no!” and “not fair!” all day. I don’t understand it, it makes me question the purpose of life and pain and the point of love and I come up with tiny fragments. Flecks of gold shining through the pain and suffering.
Generosity, kindness, love.
These are the things Kelly exemplified with her life so they are things I will be comforted by in her death.
To read Kelly’s story go here.
To donate(or just feel comforted by the outpouring of love) go here.