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22 Aug 7:00am

‘Suzanne wears a necklace that reads Mama-To-Be. The rest of her is blood and gore’: notes from the nursing frontline

The Guardian
In 20 years as a paediatric nurse, I have witnessed the extremes of pain and joy. What keeps me coming back is hope My daughter is here. Curled up in a hedgehog ball, but softer than anything in the universe. She is born with a quiff of thick black hair and an expression that says she’s been here before. A knowing, testing look. She is early, and small. I begin assessing my baby as if she’s one of my intensive-care patients. I check her reflexes, pupil reaction, respiratory rate and capillary refill time. Mary, the maternity support worker, watches me and laughs. “Nurses and doctors – always the worst patients.” I try not to think of all the babies, children and adults I’ve cared for who were seriously ill, but I can’t stop. I realise that when my daughter hurts, I will hurt more. And she is not hurting. She is fine. But something in me shifts. I think of all the faces of the mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and grandparents of my patients through all my years of paediatric nursing. I try to imagine their primal pain. How could I not have appreciated the extent of it? In the most desperate of unimaginable horrors, in the face of disability, or serious illness, or pain, or loss, how do patients’ families stand upright? How do they find the courage to care?
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