My health has really not been good since I was seven or eight, but the last eighteen months were definitely the start of a downward spiral, and the last (nearly) five and a half, the worst it’s ever been.

I have more doctors and specialists at one time than most people collect over a lifetime.  In the hundreds and hundreds of hours I’ve spent admitted, even just in the past six months, I have met or interacted with probably fifty plus nurses, as well.

It’s amazing the difference a good nurse can make.

And of all the nurses I’ve interacted with over the years, it’s been those who have spent any time in an infusion room that seem to really be the best of the best!

About five years ago, I started going to the infusion room of my local medical facility for treatments.  There’s a larger hem/onc infusion room, and then an additional, small, three-chair infusion room on another floor.  While I have done treatments in both rooms, I typically go to the smaller infusion room, “home” to one of the two nurses who have been such a blessing on this crazy journey God has had me on.

Infusion rooms are funny places.  You spend hours there – sometimes even your whole day, depending on what you’re having run.  There are recliners, drinks and little snacks, flat screen tvs/dvd players with headphones at every chair, and those fabulous blanket warmers.  More than anywhere else in typical medical facilities, it seems that infusion room staff are given license to decorate and create an atmosphere that is comforting, calming, and peaceful for their patients.  Patients tend to form a natural camaraderie while they in there, even if you’re not all dealing with the same health crisis, especially when you’re in a smaller room like I’m often in.  Conversations range from treatments, side effects, and what works to prevent side effects, to “real life” or “the outside world,” things many people who spend a lot of time in infusion rooms may not be getting to see a lot of at the time, so you tend to live vicariously through the adventures of another.

Nurse Snarky runs the small infusion room I typically go to.  She has put her own touches all over that little room, making it a cozy refuge that most people are shocked to discover exists if they happen to walk past and see the door open.  Natural light from huge windows, Christmas lights for ambiance, and lots of real plants make it far from the cold, sterile place that most tend to associate with medical facilities.

Nurse Snarky is a character!  She genuinely cares about each patient who enters her room, and she remembers specifics about their lives and stories, whether she sees them once a year or once a week. I’ve watched her care for a young man desperately needing a transplant and seen her hide her tears as he hobbles out, knowing he may never be well enough to return again.  And I’ve seen her find ways to try to brighten up his life anonymously, because that’s the kind of person she is.

If you get her alone, like I often do later in the day when she’s added me in to her already full schedule, even knowing it means she’s going to have to work an extra hour or so, you get a chance to see and hear more of her story – as well as her fun personality and sense of humor.   But getting her alone also means being able to have conversations about the ‘real’ stuff of life, rejoicing in highs and sharing lows.

Even just in the last five and a half months, I could list dozens of ways that Nurse Snarky has gone far above and beyond the call of duty because of her genuine concern for me.  She goes to bat for me if something seems to be slipping through the cracks, she calls doctors when feels as if there is a way to help turn things around, and when things get crazy and complicated, she pulls strings behind the scenes to try to help out.

She is fabulous – even if she argues it every time I tell her that.  So I just write her positive reviews every time I’ve seen her.  I told her my goal is someday seeing her picture as the nurse of the year, because she deserves it.  And then we have a messy time trying to get a line in, or my hands freeze up entirely, and then she says that that’s why they’ll never give her nurse of the year.  But really, she makes a world of difference!

My other amazing nurse is my home infusion nurse, Nurse Sassy.  She also worked as an infusion room nurse for years before she went into home nursing, and I’m so glad she has been my regular nurse since I first got my PICC line back in early December.

From the very first phone call that she answered on-call just a day into me having the PICC, she walked me through how to stop blood from flowing UP my line (blech!)…and then how to get blood return the next day when my line was clotted.  I was thrilled when she ended up being the first nurse who came to do a dressing change for me later that week, and from that first week, she has helped just make the best out of a not-so-fun situation.

Nurse Sassy makes everything more entertaining and fun.  We end up laughing through most of her visits, over something her little one has done, over our shared love of a particular escapism show, over the silly things guys do, or…something!  But we have also talked about the more serious side of things – faith, family, friends.  When she found out she was pregnant the morning before she came to my house one day, with her husband being the only one who knew at that point, she couldn’t refrain from spilling her good news to me.

When my PICC line had to unexpectedly be removed because of an infection, and then they found the DVTs, I was afraid that was an abrupt end to my weekly visits with Nurse Sassy.  But then they started up infusions at home later that week, just doing it by peripheral lines for now – which means now I see even more of Nurse Sassy!  Somehow we find even more to laugh over now…like the day we ended up with a lake of blood (blood thinners and wacky veins are quite a messy combination!) that we finally had gotten cleaned up, and then her baby belly knocked over my huge drink sitting on the table by where we were doing everything.  By the end of it we were nearly hysterical and both afraid to move or look at anything out of fear we’d have yet another giant mess.

Last week, when things got crazy complicated, and my main doctor (and head ‘doctor wrangler’) unexpectedly left until sometime next month and things started falling through the cracks, Nurse Sassy was on vacation to my favorite local getaway – Disneyland.  She’d never been before, so I had emailed her a very comprehensive guide to all the little known tips/tricks for Disneyland, especially with a toddler (and her being pregnant).  In exchange, she promised to email pictures so I could vicariously enjoy it, as long I updated her about what was going on health wise.  When she heard all that transpired midweek, despite being on vacation, she immediately was on the phone to my doctors trying to make sure my health didn’t pay the price as a result.  That’s a nurse going the extra mile!

I have been so very blessed by the two of them!

I try to do little things periodically as a thank you, though they go so far above and beyond, and I’m so limited in what I can do right now to even express my appreciation.

Since both like unique things, and both like ‘pay it forward’ type things, I found something that I’ve ordered and am planning to do for each at some point.  They’re called The Giving Keys – you can order them online or buy them in a few stores across the country.  You can choose from a list of about fifteen words, or you can custom request a particular word.  At some point, you’re supposed to pass the key off to someone who needs it and then share the story on the website of who it went to.

giving keys

It’s totally the kind of thing both Nurse Snarky and Nurse Sassy would like – and God brought to mind perfect words for both of them.  Actually, things I pray for both of them, though I’m not sure I’ll include that in my explanation when I eventually give each of them their keys.  This is just a sample of a key and not one I ordered for either, but I’m excited to get them and give them to each of them sometime when the time is right!

key two

I’m so thankful for these fabulous two nurses God has blessed me with, and for the difference they make in my life, as well as the lives of so many others!