CHOC Nurse Shares Compassionate and Courageous Glimpse of the OICU

In honor of National Nurses Week, and the remarkable dedication and care that CHOC nurses provide to our patients and families every day, we’d like to share this narrative by one of our nurses, Kerry Jauregui, from the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC.

Kerry Jauregui, OICU Clinical Nurse

Walking onto this unit, is like walking into another world. If you don’t live it, you don’t get it …

• Their hairless, shiny heads are an endearing sight.
• They decorate the face masks they must wear when stepping foot outside their room, with felt mustaches.
• They know how to maneuver their lines – arm up, lying on this side – to get the best lab draw.
• Their NG tubes are referred to as “nose noodles”… and they request that we start making them in pink!
• Their fears and worries are the dreaded painful chemotherapy IM injection they are about to receive, rather than which prom dress to wear.
• Their mile long ‘beads of courage’ hanging from their IV pole resembles so much more than courage… holidays missed at home, trips to the PICU, proms missed, hundreds of chemo and blood infusions, many bad days hurled over the toilet or bucket puking… it is only a mere symbol of their strength during this difficult battle.
• They get gifts and posters, and are sung ‘Happy Transplant Day’ by nurses and child life… while in the outside world, their friends gather and celebrate a birthday party.
• A teenager is not worried about her outfit, hairdo or makeup like her peers, but is more self-conscious of her puffy steroid-induced cheeks.
• They get pulled in wagons down the hallways of the hospital, rather than down the sidewalks to the park.
• They walk holding their IV pole alongside them, rather than the hand of a best friend.
• They wait in anticipation of the morning print out of lab results, comparing and keeping immaculate record of trends and changes… rather than studying algebra.
• They know the names of their chemos rather than their classmates, and will tell you which antiemetic will work best for which chemo.
• Their pain and tears from the injection you gave is disheartening… but seeing them laugh and smile just moments later, realizing the chemo you just gave is saving their life… is truly rewarding.
• Witnessing the newborn who has been on the unit for months, have all of its firsts within the walls of the tiny hospital room… from speaking its first babbles, to teeth beginning to come in… is exhilarating!
• Helping a mother of a child to let go is a heart-breaking, yet sacred, moment.
• The child who was nearing death’s bed in the PICU just weeks ago takes their first step… and from the priceless faces on patient and mom, you know that step means so much more than just a physical act!

I smile in admiration of their strength. I laugh at their playfulness and innocence. I stand amazed by their resilience. I stand speechless in awe of the amount of love and patience the families give. I applaud a mother, who despite her fear and self-doubt, does a perfect CVAD dressing change. I cry worrying about the loss of a child’s innocence and consequently their outlook on life, from such an earth-shattering experience. I hope on behalf of their fight.

I continue to love on these kids and families… and help them to fight their fight alongside of them, because I believe. I believe in a cure. I believe in our science. I believe in our technology. I believe in our mission. I believe in our amazing team. I believe in their resilience. I believe in their strength. I believe in their hope.

Fighting this fight can be tireless, sad, hopeless, draining and frustrating along the way. But saving the life of one of these children, and being there supporting these families every step of the way is the greatest gift and privilege I could possibly ask for! It is my duty to serve. And my honor to join the fight against childhood cancer!

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