The longer you practice as a nurse, the more you recognize how fragile and remarkable life is. Nurses bear witness to it all – the brain tumor patient who was told 10 years ago she only had one year to live yet not only survives, but thrives; or the 16 year old who loses his life because of a PE developed after a femur fracture he got during a football game. Throughout it all, we realize that we would witness more fragility if it weren’t for the incredible acts of dedication and heroism by the nurses, nursing assistants and other members of the healthcare team. We sacrifice our families and friends, our backs and our bladders to care for strangers yet most of what we do goes unrecognized – unadorned. After all, it’s just what we do.
Last year I wanted to find a way to recognize and thank the “little hero” in the remarkable people I’ve met throughout my nursing career; the people who I’ve witnessed demonstrating incredible acts of kindness to patients, their families, and their co-workers. So, I came up with a slogan: “Human by birth – Hero by choice” and created thank you cards. I give these thank you cards to nurses during my seminars and presentations and ask them to give a card to someone who has made a difference in their lives.
In general, I expect my cards to be given to other healthcare employees. I guess I never really thought about giving a Hero card to a patient, until I got this email from my friend Joanne. She teaches in an RN-BSN program and decided to give each of her students one of my cards to give to someone who has made a difference in their lives. To my surprise, one student gave a Hero card to her patient.
Here is the email this student sent to my friend Joanne, who then shared it with me:
Just wanted to share with you my story of the hero card. I was caring for a 21 year old stage IV cancer patient who was very critical and terminal. He was scheduled for palliative surgery with another chemo wash on Monday morning. In the early hours of morning, this man looked out with his huge sunken eyes and whispered in a wavering voice how scared he was. The night before his surgery I gave him the Hero card. With a tear rolling down his cheek and the multitude of comforting medications he was consuming, he managed a “thank you.”
I wanted you to know this. I considered for a long time who to give this to. I felt that it is intended to make a difference in someone’s life. He will surely pass before too long, and his parents and sister will have the card as well to remind them of the hero that was their son, and the lives he touched during his battle. Who was brave in the face of so much pain so that he could make the struggle easier for them.
Diana’s email to Joanne humbled and inspired me. My hope is that her story inspires you too. I want you to start telling others that they’ve made a difference in your life or that what they do inspires you – colleagues, patients, other humans. After all, it’s so easy to find fault in others; to complain, or to criticize. Instead, why not find the goodness in people – the hero in them. It’s there. Sometimes it just needs a bit of encouragement to come out.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Diana who took the time to share her story. I’d love to read your comments about the people who have made a difference in your life.
Take care and stay connected