Unexpected Angels Define Divine Purpose
By Joan McNeill, Ph.D., R.N.



Clara is an R.N. on a step-down Telemetry unit, she is one of those who operate on purpose. Her energy does not take, it gives without exhausting her. Clara has successfully accessed her internal power source, it oozes out of her. You want to work with Clara, your day simply goes better. You can ride her wave, her power draws you, and you want some for yourself. About six months ago, it was Clara’s turn to float to the Emergency Department due to short staffing.

Most nurses do not like the E.D. because it demands tremendous flexibility and you can’t lock the doors when you have exceeded safe nurse to patient ratios. Also the clientele is more emotional, angry, intoxicated and weapon yielding. Those who excel in negotiating with mind-altered individuals, multi tasking, can empathize with all age groups and exhibit a, “comfort in chaos” survive here.  Kind of makes you wonder what type of childhoods pre-hospital and E.M.S. personnel came from?

Clara had already set her intention for the day and floated to E.D. with a smile and positive attitude. She was assigned the code room and critical care. Clara had barely begun her crash cart checks when the medic radio indicated a pediatric CPR in progress. No one had even had their coffee yet as we braced for the impending needs of the affected family. Guilt, fear or maybe child abuse? In code situations, the family is a very important part of the care. The attitude today is still mixed about whether family should be in the room or not. With this particular physician and lead R.N. (that happened to be Clara), after the initial patient assessment, the family would be welcomed to witness all that is being done.

As a child CPR is being rolled in, there is a completely different energy between the staff as each member experiences what it would be like for them to be in the parent’s shoes. Sometime it is the babysitter that shows up and the parents have to be contacted. Either way there are often swelling tears in the eyes of the medics, fire, police and E.D. staff because we are grieving what could have been, that it is not fair, etc.

The medics off-loaded this lifeless precious little healthy girl still in her PJ’s that had been partially cut away to expose her tiny chest. She was two years old and had been sleeping in a double bed with her brother who was three. The medics stated that the child was found in the morning by her mom wedged between the headboard and the mattress. She would not wake up and the family called 911. When medics arrived, the patient did not appear viable; however you have to try your best to allow an opportunity for the spirit to return. You always run pediatric CPR’s until you have exhausted every drug, shock and compression.

When the twenty-year old single mother arrived shortly after her lifeless daughter did, she was screaming and wailing, her best friend at her side. When you are hit with that much emotion it takes your breath away, especially in the first twenty minutes of your shift. Clara immediately enveloped the mother who was inconsolable at this moment, her frightened friend wide-eyed; however the friend was able to speak and convey the story. The staff worked the child for another half-hour in front of the mother as Clara instinctively pulled up a chair and quietly began describing the room and what was happening around the friend and mother. Tears streaming down Clara’s cheeks as she described the oxygen, the drugs, the monitor — slowly and deliberately showing the mother the reality of the situation.

The grandmother arrived and interpreted the scene with a glance. This was a strong and intuitive woman. Clara beckoned the grandmother to sit with her daughter who continued to wail, and scream with agonizing grief. The code-blue was stopped and the staff slowly moved from the room, dimmed the lighting and left Clara to tend to this grief.

Clara breathed and silently accessed her connection, “I am here, what can I do? How can we make sense of this? Give me the words to say.” Over the course of an hour Clara ordered a camera from security, lovingly placed the child with all the equipment still attached into her mother’s arms. These four women encircled the baby and continued the grief and acceptance ritual. Clara asked if mom wanted a picture; she said “Yes.” Two pictures were taken of an angelic little form that had now changed color. Clara asked if she could clip a lock of hair, mom said “Yes.” A perfect ringlet was clipped and placed in a sterile cup for mom’s safe keeping. The E.D. staff covered Clara’s other patients so she could commit the time to support the family. Police had preliminarily cancelled out child abuse and ruled the death as accidental, however the child would still be a coroner’s case.  Clara advised the mom why the tubes needed to stay in. Clara and the women discussed the innocence of not understanding that children move around a lot at night and the guilt anyone would feel.

After some time the family became aware that Clara was there helping and crying with them. And they had just met today. What kind of person shows up in a place like this, at a time like this?  The ladies all turned their gaze to Clara for answers. “I can not tell you why I feel this; It is as a human being, not as a medical professional. I somehow feel there is no accident here; experience in these matters has taught me this. Perhaps if we move up in the room and look down, and then consider that this child is a great and wise soul. Maybe she came here to teach us about grief and recovery. “I do not know why I feel so strongly, but I believe you are meant to heal through this, and then teach others how to heal. Other moms and dads, to whom this has yet to happen. This has great value for the work you may feel in time is your mission. This is my perception, my wish is that you receive it with my love.” Clara averted her eyes and excused herself.

The women stayed together with the child for another hour and Clara checked in unobtrusively every fifteen minutes to see if anything was needed or any questions to be answered. The women finally emerged from the room, exhausted, ready to release the child into Clara’s care. She assured them the baby was safe with her and that she would protect her until she was moved. The family left, Clara glanced at the clock, only ten hours to go. We must lift our sights above limitation and crisis, and focus on what might be. We need only be willing to ask ourselves, “How should I really be looking at this situation or dilemma?  Where is the opportunity here?”

Clara told me she had thought about that family from time to time and had sent them loving thoughts; she even had several dreams about the child. Clara had not floated down to the E.D. since that day, but when the E.D. nurses brought patients up to her unit they would tell her how amazing she was with the family and bragged to her co-workers they were very lucky to have her.

One day approximately four months later, Clara was in line for lunch in the cafeteria when she heard a voice behind her. “I remember you.” Clara turned and could not quite place the face. “You were there when my friend’s baby died.” Clara melted inside and gushed, “How is the mother and grandmother, you know I think of you often, I even dreamt about the baby?” The friend replied, “You would not believe it, she is doing better than all of us, she is being trained to go around the community and speak about SIDS. She is alive, she is on fire about it. We don’t quite know what to make of it all but you should see her speak to the parents.” Tears welled in Clara’s eyes, she hugged the girl and asked her to extend the same to the mother. “Tell her she is awesome, that I was honored to meet her.” As Clara walked away, she too felt a surge of the spirit of her profession, that energy that makes your hair stand up. She smiled and thought, what are the chances?

We all have a creative giant within ourselves and this giant typically presents itself when we are living in our divine purpose. When we are living our mission statement, we will find generous, helpful people coming forward who act like purposeful angels in our lives. The goal is to stay aware enough to notice when, and why they have come. These are the times when we can trust that we are being gently led into the next great opportunity.

 Joan McNeill, Ph.D., R.N. has practiced emergency/trauma medicine and has a private counseling practice specializing in medical professional burn-out. She is the author of several books including “Why Did I Become a Nurse Anyway?” due out in spring 2002. Inquires are welcome at JMPhDRN@aol.com   

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