My friend Jo
I have reflected on and reviewed my entire life almost all my waking hours since Dday, trying to find or make sense of his affair. Of everything. I’m very analytical. I’m scientifically minded and a concrete thinker. I like to rationalize. I love statistics, because those numbers mean something... But, I’m nearing the conclusion that there just is simply “no sense” to find or make of it. If for no other reason, than to regain clarity and sanity in my life… “So many hoursdaysmonthsyears…”
I am philosophical. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I always have. I also believe that we don’t always know the reasons why. I believe that we are all connected, somehow. We are all living the same human struggle. I believe that we strive for balance and equilibrium, and while doing so cause the pendulum slowly swing us off-balance again. Then we regain it and sometimes get closer to equilibrium. Sometimes father away. Like this after affair hell. I believe that, if we did reach absolute equilibrium, then there would truly be nothing left. Nothingness… So, that pendulum slows down, but never enough to stop. Humanity keeps it moving. We keep life moving. I believe this is why we have to feel bad to know what good is, that we need to experience sadness to know joy and anger to know happiness. It’s why the world struggles with war, disease, politics, religion, climate change. It’s the reason for everything. The pendulum keeps swinging. We seek equilibrium and balance. We are all connected.
My Dday changed me. I’ve read thru many blogs of betrayed wives and this seems to be a common thread. It changes us. I’ve changed to my very core and learned to trust in myself again. My fundamental philosophical belief, of this human struggle that we are all living, is the same. Everything. Even the slightest of things, happens for a reason. Period. It’s not fair. It can’t be justified or reasoned. It just is.
I’m a registered nurse. It’s part of who I am. My career spans 25+ years, from combat trauma flight medic, to Cardiology and ICU, and then Emergency Room. It was my dream job. I was RN, with a BSN and lots of “abc” fancy acronym certifications at a Level 1 Trauma Center, in a major Northeast city. I loved THAT job. I was professionally who and where I wanted to be.
I believe any good nurse will tell you that to be “good nurse” (not just effective and functional,) you have to love people. We would tell you that we are deeply compassionate and empathetic. If you ask us, “Where or what do you do for work?” We reply “I’m a Nurse,” It’s part of our identity.
We know the professional boundaries around pt care and we know about HIPPA and Confidentiality. We all know how shitty the job really gets. We all have a “worse story” to tell. We don’t remember all the details around the daily 12 hour shifts and chaos that frequents the Emergency room. We learn to expect the unexpected, to silently judge but never discriminate. We are tolerant and loyal. We don’t always practice what we preach. We are living the same human struggle. We make mistakes and we bleed. We get stressed and angry, and have lashed out at a pt for “interrupting” or “adding to” an already overwhelming workload. But we’ve also cried because we couldn’t save your baby or your mother or the X-ray shows a stage 4 inoperable tumor that is untreatable.
We’ve invaded every orifice on your body with tubes and needles and instruments. We’ve created surgical openings and invaded those too. We’ve cut you open your chest to keep to restore a rhythm. Any rhythm, because asystoli sucks. We’ve continued CPR far too long, because you didn’t want us to stop. We’ve injected you with chemicals to treat your cancer. Then we give you drugs; more Chemicals to treat the side effects. We treat you when we know the humane option is death, but you want to live. We want to keep you alive. We help. We don’t lose hope.
We’ve bathed you after being elbow deep in shit, because you are so sick and weak from whatever infection or disease you are suffering with and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. We feel your shame. We don’t mind. We’ve been puked on trying to protect your airway because you were too intoxicated to do it yourselves. We’ve stopped you from dying when you were trying to. We cry when you’re too broken to fix, because in spite of everything we can do, we know the statistics. We still try. Our work environment is unpredictable, dynamic and hazardous. Most of the time, it sucks. Day in and out. The same. It’s alive, and we are alive in it. It’s part of who we are.
We had a clinical staff of roughly 60-80 per shift. Mostly type A’s. More on weekends and Monday evenings. Less on midnight to morning shift, so even our coworkers were sometimes strangers. I could go weeks without working with the same nurse, and as long without meeting newly hired staff. There’s a constant flow of rotating residents, ancillary staff and a directory full of specialists. Add to that, the multicultural community that we support and 100’s of patients seen daily in our overcrowded ER. We were virtually strangers, but still all connected.
We accept everyone that comes thru our door; fevers and rashes, medical emergencies, multi-traumas, toothaches, loneliness, infections, anxiety, and intoxication. We dress your wounds, repair the broken pieces, ease your pain and see you die. We dry your tears and hold your hand. Nourish you with turkey sandwiches, peanut butter and ginger-ale. We go home at the end of the day, shower IT off, and kiss love our families. We go to bed and work in our dreams. Have nightmares sometimes. We don’t remember every patient we see. Honestly, we forget most of them. We process and internalize and then go back for more, but we all have ghosts that never go away.
One of my ghosts is a 14-year-old boy; he was hit by a car and left to die. He came into the trauma room with multiple injuries, worst being massive head trauma. He wasn’t going to survive. After I transferred him to SCU, I returned to the trauma room to prep for the next broken patient to roll thru the door. I found his jacket. A military BDU field coat. In one pocket was his rescue inhaler. In the other pocket was a flimsy aluminum can of FANTA grape soda. Completely intact. Unbroken. This is hardly my worst story. Just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t.
I believe everything happens for a reason.
One shift I spent some time with Jo, RN. We were in triage together. We talked that night about deeper personal struggles, talked about our kids and our lives. We connected. I liked being around her. She is compassionate, spiritual. She’s generous and kind. She’s real. She doesn’t bullshit you or blow smoke up your ass. She’s non-judgmental, loyal and trustworthy. With her, it is just what it is. With her, I can be me.
I finally escaped from the Emergency Room in 2010. I say escaped, because most ER nurses never leave. It’s a love – hate relationship with our job, but most of us can’t get away from it.
Jo and I are friends on Facebook. Over the years I’ve read her witty posts and looked at pictures. We didn’t personally connected again until the end July of this year. We chatted on messenger. She told me that she finally escaped from the ER, but not in those words. She’s a divorced mom of 2. Her daughter and youngest is 17, a senior in high school. Our chat was short, but meaningful and heartfelt. She was at a crossroad, with no job. A scary place in today’s economy and job market. She wasn’t overly concerned at the moment but certainly aware that she needed to find a job. I wasn’t worried for her. She’s one of the good nurses.
I reached out to her on October 9, an emotional disaster. Destroyed. I had just found out about the affair 3 days prior. Those days all run together and it’s hard to distinguish one day from next. I’m thankful for time stamps and calendars these days… “Why did I reach out to Jo?” I’ll try to explain. All of me, was telling me to reach out to her and tell her about this awful thing that was happening to me, the Hell I am going thru. My mind was just screaming, “tell Jo!” My ears wouldn’t stop ringing. I was really scared those early days, still is most of the time. I didn’t trust anything. Not even what my gut was telling me. Jo and I were not close; it didn’t make sense to me, to tell her this disgusting and shameful secret. At that point, I had told no one.
But metaphorically, I jumped. I sent her a message on Facebook asking, “Are you here?” “Why did I reach her?” There was no response. I proceeded to type, to try to explain why I was reaching out to her. I told her about my fucking asshole husband and his affair. I left her hours worth of messages. I held nothing back. Nothing. And she reached back. For days, I sent message after message, on Facebook and texts to her phone. Probably hundreds… She is always there. She is always here.
I have been working as a hospice nurse from home for over 3 years. I love being a nurse, and I love hospice care. I don’t love my current job, but my patients and their families would never know. I love people. “I hate that my husband destroyed me.” I am a good nurse. I still believe this.
Jo has started a new job and we have yet to connect outside of messages. We really haven’t tried to. I hope we do. She keeps me grounded and sane. She is my safe place. I trust her, and because of her, I trust me again.