Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on August 19, 2009


Talk about a profession we take for granted. How many hundred times in casual conversation have you heard people toss out dismissive references such as: “Oh, she’s a not a doctor, just a nurse. I think she works in ICU or the burn unit or something. Her hours must suck. She never comes out to parties or anything.” Or: “He’s a guy, but he’s a nurse. Isn’t that like a guy being a flight attendant?”

My recent six-day stay at Orlando Regional Medical Center forever ingrained in me something else.  Nurses are angels, doctors, warriors and Jedi Knights all wrapped up into one. If you know one personally, bow down the next time you see her. Or give him a big kiss. Gender is irrelevant.

I was too loopy or doped up most of the time to remember most of my nurses’ names. The ones in the ER and various testing rooms were too busy to introduce themselves, anyway, but the care they gave me was steady and sure despite the overwhelming stream of patients they were swimming through. The floor nurses making repeated rounds to my room were able to converse a bit more. There was a nurse named “Shawn” whom I called my soul-mate because her correctly spelled name was the same as the misspelled name on my wrist band. I think, based on her accent, that Shawn was from Jamaica. All I know is that if I die, I want to go to any place where Shawn’s soothing voice and lilting laugh can be the soundtrack for eternity.  Down in ICU, the two nurses assigned to me in shifts were Wes and Christina, who cared for me and checked in constantly. They’d bring me these fruit-cocktail-sized cups filled with colorful and precisely selected pills as casually and cheerfully as if it really just were a fun dinner party and they really just were serving me fruit cocktail.  But then they’d tend to every single needle, sensor and tube that was stuck into my body with the furrowed focus of technicians operating the control panels at a nuclear power plant, or monitoring that giant 1970s-era screen at NORAD showing incoming Russian missiles (I hope Dr. Strangelove has updated that goofy-looking thing with LCD and Tivo for al-Qaeda attacks, by the way). I loved both of them, and so did my sister Ellen. A couple of times something came up where Wes or Christina had to call in a middle-aged ICU supervising nurse for consultation. Her name was Sabrina, and I remember thinking it was like bringing in Obi Wan Kenobe to the room, even though her presence was only required for a few seconds before she made a decision and gave the order. Then, back up on the eighth floor, my nurses stopped in every couple hours day and night to prick my finger with a needle for a blood reading, take my blood pressure, change the Talibandage on my head and check on my general comfort level.  The one assigned most regularly to me was Sarah.

What these nurses really were was a distillation and perfect representation of the purest part of the health professions in general: Care. That’s another concept we toss around casually, but it’s a big word that means alot. It’s about much more than “giving a shit”. It’s about “giving”, period. It is something that is hammered into every level of the workaday culture that I experienced firsthand at ORMC, from ambulance driver to gurney pusher to X-Ray machine operator to administrative assistant to resident to neurosurgeon. I never saw anyone whining, banging around bedpans, or who seemed pissed off about their jobs in any way. I don’t know how they do it. But whatever it was, they did it to me and it helped me get better fast. And they renewed my appreciation for every nurse I’ve ever known throughout my life: Dad’s office nurses; Mom’s caregivers and hospice nurses; Pat Kelly’s mom; Rita Henry and her daughters; Liz, Angie and Amy Noland …and also Brenny and Kelly [who are firefighter/EMTs with the Orange County Fire Department, not to mention their mom Patty, who was an EMT in Charleston for many years. Meanwhile, Kelly just passed her paramedic exam].

A couple days ago I had to walk over to another part of the hospital complex for a routine blood draw, and I felt strong enough to venture back up to the 8th Floor just to see who was around, let them see that I was okay and thank them again. The nurses looked quizically up from their work stations, not recognizing me at first because in the interval since I had been discharged they had cared for scores more patients like myself.  To them, I was a refugee from a lost civilization called Three Weeks Ago. But a couple of them eventually remembered me. And all of them were just grateful (almost shocked) that anyone would take the trouble to come back upstairs and say thanks.

Strange that it doesn’t happen more often. To me, it should be S.O.P.

COMING SOMETIME SOON: I’m almost caught back up to real time here, but even after my treatment commences Thursday, I’ll be mixing in some more experiences and observations about the kindness of siblings and former colleagues over the past few weeks.


22 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Lisa Braithwaite said, on August 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Nurses are amazing and I will never say “just” about a nurse. I’ve never even spent the night in the hospital, but my husband and I have had several major trips to the ER, and the nurses (and EMTs and everyone else!) have always been right there and present. They’re tough, funny, caring, thorough, no-nonsense and supportive.

  2. Jeanne Klonr said, on August 19, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I just wanted to pop in and say Thank You. Sometimes when I was younger and a nurse we had to deal with rude, threatening patients. But there was always one who would say Thank You and make your whole night a lot brighter.

    I might not know you but know this, you have made me proud to have been able to be a nurse and I always tried to give as much of myself as possible.

    Good Luck with your treatment, and if you don’t mind I will be praying for you!

  3. lisa said, on August 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    dear sean,

    i found your blog via claudine hellmuth.

    as i sat here reading, stunned, sad, scared then hopeful for you i just wanted to thank you for sharing you story and to remind you that you are not alone in your fight.

    remember to LIVESTRONG and my thoughts will be with you while you are on this journey.

  4. Lori Hudson said, on August 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Steve,
    You don’t know me, but I was with Claudine when she got the news of your collapse at the Y. We were so scared for you. Thanks for starting this blog and keeping us up to date. See, you have people rooting for you and thinking of you that you don’t even know!

  5. dog's eye view said, on August 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Talibandage. That’s perfect.

    And good on you for returning to the ICU with a thank you. Am sure that meant a lot to your nurses, and might remind some of us to thank those who care (often very well) for us or our relatives.

    Nurses rock!

    So do grateful patients! Who write really interesting and useful blogs.

  6. artcricket said, on August 19, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Linked here from Claudine’s blog and love your outlook, stories and writing. I was having my sternum sliced by Black and Decker last christmas eve to remove a thymoma (thymic cancer) and never appreciated anyone more than my nurses!

  7. harborwoman said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever read! And you, my friend (how proud I am to be able to call you my friend), are nothing short of amazing. I’ll share this with two of my best friends…both nurses. They’ll love every word, too!

  8. ct, Carol said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks Sean, I appreciate your appreciation of your nurses. I’ve been a nurse for 37 years and taught nurses for 23 of them. We don’t always get the opportunity to get any thank yous. When people are sick and going through so many loss experiences they can’t often focus on their environment and the people around them. We nurses understand that but it is nice to hear occasionally that we are appreciated.

    Like you new blog

  9. Dean said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Sean, Thx for an informative, witty, insightful blog. I will be following your every word, and if you have any other movies you want to see, I’ll be happy to be your chauffeur for the movie and for lunch at Vinh’s.

  10. Chloe said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Sean, Good luck tomorrow — I’m sure everything will go well. Do you know what to expect?

    Sure appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. Thanks.
    You’re amazing. Sending lots more love to you.

  11. fish said, on August 19, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    you’re so right about the nurses! they’re the rockstars who keep things moving and do the heavy lifting, round-the-clock work…

    i’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and wishing you well!


  12. Craig Crawford said, on August 20, 2009 at 12:23 am

    The blogosphere is now a more intelligent place thanks to the arrival of Sean Holton. Or, as Neil Armstrong would say,”That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

  13. Richie Kaplan said, on August 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Sean, just got done reading your blog. I think it’s great and real interesting hearing about your experience while in the hospital, especially because I wasn’t there (UGH).
    I was real happy to see that you referred to a real football player in Dick Butkus and the thing that surprised me the most was I didn’t think it possible, after the surgery, your head still could be as large as it is. No wonder your not doing the helmut trial.
    My heart is with you, love you, miss you, and can’t wait to see you in October.

  14. Max said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Yep, its me ironically remindng you: Yes You Can. Forget Liberal sentiment: cancer is not covered under the GC so nuke those bastards and take no prisoners.

    I must say your blog and stoic sense of balance is not surprising. You got living right. Now imagine a nano swarm of Mario Brothers armed with cranial weed wackers.

    You’re not going anywhere Sean: Obama will need your vote in 2012. Dems could use your insight about healthcare from your serious perch. I can imagine no better a sensible advocate for intelligent reform.

    Nurses can be hot, yes?

    May the force be with you


  15. EdVB said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:14 pm


    God bless you and the docs and nurses, who have and will attend to your care.

    It’s great to see your sense of humor and positive attitude reflected in your blog entries.


  16. paul lester said, on August 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Sean, Claudine and I think of you every time we go by 21st and P in DC! You are constantly in our prayers. Our thoughts are with you as you begin your treatment tomorrow. Stay strong, brother! Paul

  17. Kathryn Quigley said, on August 19, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Under your post and before the comments it says: “Possibly Related Posts- Sex Every Night For A Year.”
    I also liked the word “Talibandage.”
    My Dad was in the hospital for two weeks in July. His nurses rocked.

  18. bluedevil said, on August 20, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Bucket, you sure do write good. Thanks for doing it. You and me been talking about life for half of yours and didn’t burn a lot of words on the alternative. Should have known you would be a good influence on my perspective on the flipside, too.
    Your other family loves you, Seanboy. Buckle in, hold tight and swallow them magic pills, brother.

  19. Tammy Lytle said, on August 20, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    So true about the nurses. We bonded with the NICU nurses when our boys were there the first two months of their lives. They even taught Jim how to change his first diaper. We go back at least once a year to say thank you to them.
    Now those little preemie boys are strong 3-year-olds saying prayers that Sean’s “boo-boo in the head” will get better.

  20. Sandra Fairclough said, on August 26, 2009 at 7:02 am

    From a stranger who stumbeled upon your story. Your writing inspires me to be stronger and to remember what is important. I have an 11 year old quadriplegic daughter who has been in and out of the ICU so many times we have lost count. Doctors come and go but Nurses are forever! Your beautiful writing, courage and strength inspires me to be a better mother and advocate for my daughter and to get her to document her story as you are. You are an inspiration and I will add you to my prayers.

    • MJSmith said, on August 29, 2009 at 2:18 am

      well it’s after 2 in the am and I just had to look something up before I fell into bed and had one of those browsing time warps and fell into your blog from something someone mentioned about an hour ago. since I found it I haven’t quit reading and searching for more. It’s a tough world out there for lots of us and not everyone has courage and humor to buoy not just themselves and their loved ones, but to buoy those whom they touch even in ‘blogworld.’ I will drift off to sleep thinking of you and knowing that if one can keep on scrappin along like you, then so can the rest of us. It’s the least we can do for each other. your strength gives me strength to hopefully pass on and so and so on………

  21. Johnetta Miner, NP said, on October 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    On behalf of myself and my Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse colleagues, Thank You! for advocating for our profession.

    Johnetta Miner, MPH, MSN, RN, NP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: