An Amazing Story: Laura's Little Voice
Some RNs are born with a sixth sense, a little voice that somehow knows what others aren't aware of. It cannot be explained nor described. It is just there, knowing what is going on in a patient that seems completely normal. Let me explain.
In 2003 we moved to Seattle from Hawaii, and Laura was offered a job 5 minutes into her interview at Swedish Medical Center. Her dream job, the epitome of nursing, was to be a Swedish Nurse! Expectations were high. Qualifications and experience had to meet Swedish standards for RNs. And they were very high.
A very special lady fulfills a lifelong dream
Laura began work on the 7p to 7a night shift in the High-Risk OB Department of Labor and Delivery. It was a busy place seeing more than 19 new little lives brought into the world by this crew of outstanding doctors and nurses daily!
Nightshift is a different world in a labor and delivery unit. When visitors leave, the staff continues their work. Nature doesn't care if it is day or night when birthing babies. But in the quiet and subdued light of a newborn and mother's room, magic moments happen. Often Laura would come in and grabbed the mother's camera or cellphone and snapped a picture of the new mom and her baby, sound asleep. Precious moments that I'm sure are some of their most treasured.
One night, Laura was taking care of a woman who delivered a beautiful baby. The baby was assigned an APGAR score of 10 5-minutes after birth, the highest you can give. It indicated a healthy, normal baby. Not long after birth, the new mom and her baby were moved to recovery. All seemed normal.
The more time Laura spent with the baby, the more she became concerned that something wasn't quite right with this kid. She asked the resident to have another look at the baby. After a careful examination, the doctor pronounced the baby "normal."
Laura's little voice could not be quieted and began to speak louder. There is something going on here and she couldn't put her finger on it. She asked the pediatric neurologist on duty to take a look at the baby. "Normal" No problems. The little voice grew louder. Another specialist was consulted. He examined the baby and found nothing wrong. They all told Laura that the kid was OK. Not to worry. She kept voicing her concern and finally had one of the top pediatric doctors at Swedish give the baby a thorough examination. He proclaimed the baby to be absolutely normal in all respects.
The mother and baby were discharged and sent home the next day. Laura's little voice had not been silenced. A few days later one of the attending doctors approached Laura and took her aside. "Laura, that baby you were so concerned about.... you were right. How did you know something was wrong?" He told her that the kid was born with half a brain!
This triggered a train of residents, specialists, and department heads looking for "that nurse who knew that the kid she was taking care of was born with half a brain." Finally, a U of W OB/GYN Clinical Division Chief paid Laura a visit, took her aside in a private room, and asked how she knew there was something wrong with that newborn. Laura couldn't answer her question. She just knew. It was that little RN voice that supersedes all understanding and logic. Some nurses have it. They cannot tell you how they got it.
Maybe it is the combination of long exposure to patients who often can't communicate what is going on. It is exposure to seasoned nurses who had developed keen critical line thinking skills and had an excellent rapport with their little voice. All her working life she had been around outstanding doctors and nurses who took the time to teach and show Laura what they had learned in caring for patients. It was "Old School" L&D nurses who taught her how to place her hand on the belly of a woman in labor and feel the quality of contractions, or more importantly when something was not going right. Today this has become a lost art. Labor is a carefully monitored event with sophisticated electronics. Laura grew up in a hospital and was surrounded by people who let her see and do things that this day in age would not be allowed. What you see in Laura is an RN with exquisite skills, delicate intuition, and complete dedication to her patients. Everywhere Laura has worked these abilities were quickly recognized. Many doctors she has "mothered" through their 4 years of residency tried to steal her away to come to be their nurse after residency. It happened in our first home in Germany at Landstuhl Army Hospital where she volunteered to work for two oral surgeons. They pleaded with her to come work for them after leaving the Army. It happened at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds where several doctors wanted her to come work for them. One, in particular, was successful in stealing her away, Dr. Donald Keith. Laura special dutied him after he was stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock. She was at his bedside for 24 hours straight as he hovered near death. Afterward, he was so impressed with her that she accepted his offer to come work for him as his office nurse, and at the same pay as she was getting in the hospital, unheard of at the time.
Then she and Dr. Keith moved to a new clinic with six other doctors. When Dr. Keith decided to return to his own practice, the other physicians pleaded with Laura to stay with them.
In 1994 we moved to Honolulu. Laura was offered a job at Kapiolani Hospital for Women and Children during her phone interview while still in Edmonds. It didn't take long before Laura was named "Nurse of the Year" at the hospital.
Being a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Hawaii Burns School of Medicine, Laura worked with many doctors going through their 4-year residencies. Again, upon graduating, many wanted to steal her away to come work with them in their new practices.
Laura has retired after a stellar 46-year career in nursing. She has saved many lives, delivered many babies before a doctor could make it to the delivery, and made many close friends who will always remember her compassion, dedication, and consummate skills as a Registered Nurse. She is the nicest person I've ever met. And I was lucky enough to marry her 54 years ago!