The love of my life, Brenda, hasn't known a moment free of pain, suffering, and failure for most of her life. No, she's been a successful nurse, a good mother, and a wonderful woman to know all these 12 years. No, the pain she's suffered stemmed from a hurt she's carried since she was four-years-old. You see at that age her brother abused her and took away her innocence. From those moments of hurt to this point where our family is in major crisis the overwhelming hurt, grief, and pain is at a point where it seems like there's no way out.
Brenda has been a nurse for 22 years. Her experience was appreciated by patients, their families, doctors, and fellow nurses alike for her care and insight. A valued friend, a good woman, and someone who loves nature.
But the pain Brenda has felt these many years is something she's carried for so long along with other pains which added to her burden. For the last two or three years she's had complications around her health. After seeing two doctors they could not give her a competent prognosis regarding the pain she has expeirence physically. The pain was so great she was entered into the hospital various times to be treated.
Along with the physical pain came the pain of being a nurse in the 21 st century. The entire culture of health care has changed where the focus for the care of paitent is now an assembly line. Doctors and nurses alike are no longer care givers but robots with arms making sure each patient is given their meds, change their bedding, and out of the hospital quickly to make room for more patients (hopefully with money). The culture Brenda knew when she was a young nurse where nurses took care of each other and patients received the best of care is now reduced to a medical Hilton with mints on the pillow.
Along with the burdens mentioned are the day to day living pains of providing for our daughters, taking care of bills, and trying to keep her sanity.
But the pain was still there.
Growing and growing the pain kept nagging and bothering her till she made a choice many other health care providers are doing to themselves to numb away the pain. She crossed the line. She took narcotics to help ease the pain of her body (mainly) to get through the night. Oh, I didn't mention she worked night shift most of her 22 years as a nurse. Recent studies showed that night shift workers have greater health risk due to the change in the body's clock coupled with lack of sleep and other factors wearing the body down.
She crossed the line.
I was told last year around October and the news floored me. But I let her know how much I loved her and how I would stay by her side regardless of what happened. But I also told her she needed to "fess up" to her bosses about what was going on and get treatment. Later she received treatment for depression, anxiety, and past childhood abuse which lasted for about 6-8 weeks.
By early April of this year she was back on the job and (much to my chagrin) was back on night shift. But it was a necessity to do that; the bills for the treatment (even with good health care coverage) would be high and working nights meant differential added to her current salary. So she worked, got things done, even got a raise and a good evaluation regarding her work. Even a patient she was taking care of gave her high praise for her care along with his family.
And the next week she was terminated.
Why, you may ask? Because the hospital she worked at ran an investigation regarding the drug use and because they have a zero toleration regarding those in the health field using drugs while working she was terminated on the spot. Mind you not once did they take her aside off the floor to do a drug test on her nor did they do one when she was in their office for her termination. She is now facing the Ohio Board of Nurses hoping she can at least get her license back. If not, her career as a nurse is over. If so, then she is looking at a six month period (minimum) until she can apply for a health care job again.
This puts us in the middle of a storm.
It is like the Katrina of storms for us because if her license is gone and her last pay check is withheld we are looking at having to move everything we own, everything we've accumulated for 12 years, out and we are out of a home. Along with it we're out of a car too as we are unable to pay. I don't make much, per hour, but I do have other benefits to help us get through which includes a company vehicle. But long term, this won't be enough.
With her record in tatters, Brenda is looking at a rough road ahead. As adults, we can find ways to manage and make things work. For our girls, that's a whole other story in itself. The oldest, who is 17, will be able to drive by summer and be able to fend for herself as she's about to graduate from high school next year. Thankfully she is very smart, talented, and very resourceful to be able to survive without being around us. As for our 10 year old, sadly she's going to have a front row seat in the middle of our "storm". She doesn't process how grave our situation is at this moment, but we want to do everything to try and make things as normal as possible. She is indeed as smart, thoughtful, and talented as her sister, but we hope all of this won't deter her from getting a good education and to be able to rise above all of this.
The thing Brenda is thankful for is that both girls did not suffer the abuse she took when she was a little girl. They won't know the hurt and pain she lives with night after night; they won't need to have to put up defenses to try and survive the changing world around them based on the fact someone took their innocence. But it doesn't take away the pain or the damage done by her human mistake.
I've caught more of her tears these last few weeks than I have in all the years I've known her. And I'm prepared to take in a few more along the way. I feel the pain with her because any other option is ludicrous! Why add on more pain, hurt and disappointment than she needs to bare? Dealing with the depression, the issues of failure, and so much more is enough to carry.
But a very revealing phone call to a case manager made clear to us she is not alone in dealing with substance abuse in the medical field. He went on to tell her that all the clients he dealt with 90% of them--doctors and nurses alike--all deal with substance abuse. To know she is not alone is a sobering reminder of a health care problem that is spinning out of control.
From an article on NurseZone.com:
Elizabeth Moran Fitzgerald, ARNP, LMFT, Ed.D., cited an American Nurses Association statistic that one in 12 nurses in the United States has an alcohol or drug problem severe enough to affect his or her practice.Addicted nurses face special recovery issue
In some degree or another, the nursing field and physicians are facing a crisis and now the one that I love lost her job by being another statistic. Right now...right now we don't know what to do.
I don't know what its like to have a tornado hit through your house and take everything you know away. No hurricane has hit our Ohio home for all the time I've know save for winds from a hurricane (thanks Hurricane Ike) but we still had everything. This. This is totally different because we are on the verge of going from soccer mom and dad to homeless with no place to go and only one job providing some sort of coverage for our family but not enough. We have friends who are kind enough to give us space on their property to pitch a tent so we have some place to call home. Once fall/winter hit we're not sure.
As for Brenda...
I'm a pretty hopeful person and someone who trust in God a lot. I must say our pastor has helped us both (mostly her) in getting us through the initial phase of treatment. But...even with all the faith and hope I have right now we're in a real tight hole. I'm not sure what the end of the storm will look like; not sure if our girls will look at their mom in the same way again; not sure if even Brenda wants to be a nurse again. I wouldn't blame her if she didn't...her glory days of nursing were way over when the almighty buck became the hospital room staple.
All I know is I love her. She's not Dr. House or Nurse Jackie, she's an average person, working mom, proud liberal, and someone who is as human as all of us. My prayer every day is that God would take the hurt away, that he would give her just one moment where she can believe again something good can come out of the worst storm. In my half full kind of world her world is not half empty but "where's the damn water?"
I know she's not alone, but right now the world is closing in around us and short of faith that God will get us through this we feel like even the eye of the storm would be short lived as the flank of the wind and rain batter us senselessly with no end in sight.
A life line would be a welcome to storm battered eyes right now.
UPDATE: 4/25/12--- Brenda went to the Behavioral Health Intake Assessment nurse today to get the initial ball rolling regarding the future of her nursing license and starting a treatment program.
Why on God's Earth did she do this?
She was treated Brenda like a criminal. A dreg of society. She did not believe Brenda didn't come forward about her abuse when she was younger--both sexual and physically; she did not believe that Brenda didn't have prior opiate abuse other than the recent one which landed her in the position she/we are in right now; Just because she had had a handful of opiate prescriptions over the last 8-10 years. The most recent being last June after an acute diagnosis for Acute Cystic Ovarian Syndrome--and it was only one prescription. Motrin only after that. She didn't believe Brenda only drinks two or three alcoholic drinks a month (fact is its true: We still have beer and other items untouched for months unless we have many people over for BBQ or an occasional football event). In short, they didn't listen to her or her experience, they went by script and wrote believing she was a slug in the mud and a liar; whatever pre-conceived notions this woman had against Brenda.
At one point she sternly stated to Brenda, "You really don't want to get treatment do you?" REALLY?!?!? Brenda explained how she voluntarily sought out and spent the last 2 months in treatment--even though not being absolutely and completely honest about everything she needed help with. The nurse indicated that Bren "have problems with authority figures don't you?" ("YES, I DO! BECAUSE THOSE SAME AUTHORITY FIGURES FAILED ME WHEN I WAS ABUSED RIGHT UNDER THEIR DAMN NOSES AND GAVE NO INDICATION THAT THEY WERE SUPPORTIVE; Somehow, even way back then, Bren knew the system was a broken system--she saw too many schoolmates get locked into the psychiatric realm and the dereliction they suffered because they believed they could confide in someone.)
"I see you rationalizing and explaining everything away" the nurse said.
Bren explained to me that this will be like going into the Marines----they will totally tear and strip you down; convince you that everything you have ever done to this point in your life has been wrong, your thoughts/opinions do not matter and should not matter because you 'danced with the devil'. Then rebuild you into what 'they' WANT 'you' to be----
Oh, and I should mention that she had a completely negative drug screen on 10-01-10, 05-01-11 and 2-20-12 ---AND NO ONE HAS RE-SCREENED HER YET!!! No one. Not the Nursing Administration or Police Investigator that fired her from her job, not the Behavioral Health Department today--No one!!
Kind of like sending gays to church camp to learn how to "Pray The Gay Away."
"If you don't get in line, we'll lock you away"--one of her favorite lines of lyrics from Dave Matthews.
Or, "Suck it up Buttercup!"--as one of our dear friends always states to her children/grandchildren.
So, here we are. She meets with the Board tomorrow. At this point---If the Board decides to allow her to enter the 'Program"; with successful completion of the program--keep her license....We are both wondering if this will all be worth it. To go back to a job/career that she settled for and never truly wanted to do in the first place. (she could not afford enough college to do what she really wanted to do---and especially cannot now)
She is an awesome nurse--stated over and over again by some of the Doctors she has worked with, Nurse Practitioners, patients and families----but just because you are good at something doesn't mean you like it or want to continue to do it----
She is a broken woman in a broken system---only to have others break her further. Where is the compassion and hope that should be afforded to all who struggle to overcome and survive?