The tracks we leave behind

Unbelievable to see the photos of staff evacuating patients from an NYU hospital in Manhattan, ventilated patients with lines and IVs and monitors being carried down stairs lit only by flashlights. Apparently the back-up generator failed.  Fragile, premature babies were evacuated too.  As a retired NICU nurse, this really got to me.

We used to practice where I worked. We had aprons with, I think, four big pockets. A baby was supposed to go in each pocket. But, but…what about the ventilators and IVs? we asked.  This is triage, we were told.  Take the well babies first.  The idea appalled us. You can’t imagine how attached we got to the tiny 600-, 700-gram babies we took care of, some of them for months.  To abandon them after they weathered crisis after crisis?  I’m just glad we never had to do it.  There’s no place for sentimentality  in medical triage. The people most likely to survive are the ones you get out first.

The first year I was retired, I dreamt about the babies almost every night–alarms going off on babies I couldn’t reach, babies I forgot to take care of for an entire shift (never happened!), one recurring dream of a ventilated, premature baby I had to take care of in the back of an old Ford.  In the dream, I kept saying, I shouldn’t have to do this here, there’s no room, why aren’t we in an ambulance?  No answers, of course, just an aching back from trying to suction a baby in an isolette in the back of a Ford.  I wonder how many babies were conceived in those old Fords?

The devastation from the storm is incredible. Thank god for the rescue people and some kind of infrastructure to deal with it, but many will suffer great hardship.  These scenes of massive natural disaster are becoming  way too familiar–Fukushima, Haiti, the tornadoes, droughts, tsunamis. At least this time, global warming seems to be part of the media discussion.  Maybe this will be the one that makes the government take it seriously.

Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.–Cree Indian prophecy

We will be known by the tracks we leave behind.–Dakota Proverb

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7 Responses to The tracks we leave behind

  1. Casey says:

    It is incredible the things asked of nurses. I have always had the deepest respect for them, and it just keeps getting deeper. One of my daughters is starting to pursue a nursing degree. I wonder if she’ll make it – she has a large, soft heart. I’ve warned her, though.
    We’ll be reading and hearing about this storm for quite some time, huh? Wow.

    • sswl says:

      Casey, that large, soft heart may be one of the best things she brings to nursing. Yes, could be hard on her, but so much better than getting hardened!

  2. Lisa Neumann says:

    Enjoyed hearing about your nursing. Touching how much people have given, yet we don’t see it until they tell us. Thank you.
    I loved your quotes too. Simply put, “I’m happy to have your sweet and loving emails showing up in my inbox.”
    with gratitude, Lisa

  3. eelamni says:

    I work in aged care and unfortunately one of our facilities had to put triage into practise last year when a fire broke out. Sadly they weren’t able to get everyone out and 12 people were left behind. The ongoing consequences have been horrific for the survivors (survivors guilt) and also for the staff who made the call of who to leave behind.
    I’m glad that you never had to put your training into practise.
    Take care

  4. Made me smile and think of my aunt- she too was a nurse and worked with the preemies (before she went into outreach education).

    Those photos of the nurses rushing down the stairs were amazing. Real life angels.

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