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Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I Learned This Week in ICU

My grandmother has been in ICU for 5 nights and 6 days. Last night they transferred her to an acute care hospital that specializes in getting her off the breathing machine. Here are the 6 things I have learned so far from the experience in no particular order because I'm still too tired to prioritize.

1. How you treat people will always come back around 
My grandmother worked in our hometown hospital as a nurses aid for over 20 years. According to the nurses now, she was a "damned good one". There were people coming up to visit her that I have never met telling me stories about my grandma and how she had taken them under her wing. They all told me how much they love my grandma. They cared for her with their medical expertise and their love because my grandma treated them well.

2. Everyone reacts to crisis differently, try not to judge
These situations suck. Everyone responds differently. Don't judge them, love them, know they're hurting too.

3. Prayer is productive, Worry is a drain on the system
For generations my family has used the words worry and care synonymously. They call and say, "I was worried about you." Read: I care about you. I see what worry does to their blood pressure, their anxiety level. They're working hard to slide in the prayer where the worry used to be. Prayer calms and soothes the soul to turn it over to the Guy that's really in charge any way.

4. Things always look better in the morning
I slept in the ICU 3 nights and spent 5 days there. The nights suck, and the morning renews. Isn't it that way with any situation that has you down? If we can quiet ourselves at night and turn it over in prayer, the morning light often renews our spirit.

5. Social Networking is the Best Prayer Chain Ever
My heart is full with the messages I receive from friends and family and virtual friends I have never met in person. We have been lifted up in prayer day after day after day. Sure Facebook can be a place to post pictures of your cat in a tutu but it's also a place to lift each other up.

6. Smoking Sucks
My grandmother's surgery was to remove a piece of her colon that had cancer. They got out the cancer, closed her up and that healed quickly. The fact she has smoked for 60 years is what is threatening her life every minute.

A note to smokers: I was one of you many many years ago. I know it's a choice and I know it's an addiction, but never for one minute believe it's just about you. I have to believe that my grandmother never wanted me to stay up all night leaning over a rail on her hospital bed watching her gasp for every single breath and fight the tubes that are down her throat and pushing oxygen into her lungs. She loves me too much to want that for me. Yet, she put me in that situation by smoking.

I know it's a hard hard thing to quit because I did it.

Today for a minute, picture your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, leaning over that rail, praying like crazy that you live through the night. 

Picture them watching you fight that breathing tube and not able to communicate except with the panic in your eyes while you are trying to breath.

Hear the sounds of beeps and alarms of machines brought in to keep you alive.

Hear the sound of tubes being stuck down in your lungs and the sucking sound of fluids being drawn out from the pneuomonia that has set in.

Feel the fear in their hearts.

Hear the doctor say with that tone to his voice, "You know, he/she is a smoker." and know they mean, we can't guarantee you'll make it through this surgery because your body has been beaten and broken by those choices.

Just like my grandma, you do so much for your family, your kids and your grandkids. You just want them to leave you alone about the smoking. We can't. Because in the end, that might be what causes the end. I know that isn't how you really want to remembered.

You have the opportunity now to do it differently. The pride they would feel if you reached out today and started a journey to breath free would send the signal to them that you really want them to know. They matter. Do I Want to Quit