Mark was in town to be the best man in an old friend’s wedding—on a vacation, of sorts—when the unthinkable happened and he was involved in a horrendous traffic accident. He was ejected from his rental car. His injuries were severe and life threatening.
Mark’s family was halfway across the country. Getting to Mark quickly seemed impossible. But this is where the story takes a turn:
Mark’s family found a flight leaving that morning from their local airport, with the exact number of available seats that they needed. As they bought the tickets, they explained the nature of their emergency. They got to the airport in the nick of time. While checking in, they were approached by an airline employee who asked if they’d already arranged a rental car. They told him that they hadn’t—they hadn’t even stopped to get their clothes.
They didn’t know it at the time, but the employee who’d approached them was the pilot of the plane. He’d learned of the family emergency and held the plane for them. He knew how serious Mark’s accident had been, as he’d happened to drive right past the accident scene on his way to the airport before the first leg of the flight.
When the plane landed, the pilot requested that Mark’s family be given priority in leaving the plane, then he followed them and drove them to the hospital. Amazingly, Mark’s entire family reached the hospital before he’d even come out of the operating room.
Mark’s dad told me this story while Mark, dozing in his ICU bed, chimed in occasionally with a word or two. It gave me chills—as his nurse, I’d read the operative reports and seen the scans; I knew how critical his injuries had been, how easily things could have gone much differently.
The American Nurses Association definition of nursing includes “alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response.” All too often, especially in the trauma ICU, people are responding to unexpected tragedy and loss with shock and pain, and alleviation of suffering is not always possible or realistic.
In Mark’s case, I was reminded of the flip side of suffering, where the love and bonds of family, good medicine, and the unsolicited kindness of strangers come together to paint a beautiful picture of the human experience.
It’s nursing that affords me this view. I feel fortunate to be a member of a profession that I love.