What were you doing 20 years ago today when two aircraft hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City? I remember the day very well. I was working in the Cardiovascular ICU at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, Texas. I had driven to work on gas fumes. The gas take of my car was nearly empty but I did not stop because I would be late to work if I did. As things began to unfold on the T.V. screen, there were news reports of long lines at the gas stations, as people bought up all of the gas. Many people were in a panic, afraid that the country was at war. I became afraid that I might not make it home that evening because I knew that I needed to get gasoline to make it home. When I left the hospital that evening, I had to go to several gas stations before I found one with fuel. It was not the Lord’s will that I should be stranded but made it home to my wife and children safe and sound.
My wife and I had just moved to the Tyler, Texas area in July of that year, and we started working for Mother Frances hospital. I was not a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ at that time but was very secular in my way of thinking. It would be two years later that I began to read the Scriptures and come to know the Lord. This past Thursday was my final shift in the CVICU at Mother Frances hospital. I have longed to leave ICU nursing for sometime now. I never enjoyed ICU nursing but did enjoy heart surgery recovery. When I began to work in the CVICU it was a recovery unit for persons who just underwent coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve surgery. It was not an ICU in the since of anyone who is critically ill. The unit has moved twice during the time that I have worked for Mother Frances hospital. First to the fourth floor of the Ornelas tower, this tower was under construction when I started working in the CVICU, but the unit did not move to the tower until 2010. The second move was to the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital. A new building was built with the concept of total heart care.
I have to say that the hospital has not moved towards total heart care but away from it. The CVICU was a recovery unit for persons who just underwent coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve replacement but when the first move happened, the door was opened to it becoming a medical surgical ICU. When the second move happened, the plan was to only put on the unit persons admitted for cardiac care but from the beginning there was resistance. Today, there is no difference between this unit and any other medical-surgical ICU. The recovery of persons who just underwent coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve replacement has become, not secondary, but tertiary. When I began working on this unit over 20 years ago, every day that I worked was recovering someone from coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve replacement surgery but now it is rare. On my final shift on the unit I did recover someone from coronary artery bypass surgery but only because I requested it, it had been a month since I last did. The majority of persons on the unit today are persons with chronic illnesses with very little hope of survival. I have felt for a long time that I am doing nothing more than inflicting suffering on suffering and dying people.
Every human life matters, but oftentimes, in the ICU, human dignity is thrown out to keep a body alive that has gone well past survivability. I cannot do this type of nursing any longer. The changes to this unit are drastic but they have been progressing to where they are now over the past two decades since I first started at Mother Frances hospital. I am now moving to the outpatient cath department so that I can get back to the root of nursing that I love; to care for persons undergoing a procedure on their heart that will help them continue to live meaningful and productive lives. I will be preparing people for, and recovering people from cardiac catheterization, coronary stent placement, cardiac electrophysiology procedures, pacemaker, and defibrillator placement.
On the day of my final shift, I asked several persons on the unit, “What were you doing on September 11, 2001? Most could not give me an answer because they were very young at the time. Most questioned why I would leave ICU nursing and go to outpatient cath. The answer is that I never signed up for ICU nursing but found myself in it as the unit changed. I pray the best for everyone in the CVICU at Mother Frances hospital in Tyler, Texas, may the Lord’s will be done in your lives.
Your Servant for Jesus Sake