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Making a difference

Dialysis patient’s desire to help others impresses RN

Thursday May 15, 2014
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Amelia was a patient I will never forget. She was 23, the same age as my daughter. And, like my daughter, she had gone off to college. Even better, Amelia had studied in Paris.

But while there, she developed a kidney infection, and acute renal failure followed. One kidney succumbed despite aggressive treatment; the other was compromised enough that she needed dialysis and blood transfusions to improve her anemic state. Let me tell you about the day I met her.

Amelia came to our department on a Tuesday morning trying to find out whether the anemia was due to blood loss in her GI tract. Because she was an outpatient, I knew little about her history. So when she strolled in with her gazelle-like legs and hair in a stylish cut making her look like a Nairobi queen, I cocked my head quizzically. I’d never seen a dialysis patient looking so healthy.

A quick review of her history and physical brought me up to speed, and after introductions, Amelia changed and made herself comfortable on the stretcher while I collected supplies to start her IV. Surprisingly, I had no difficulty finding a peripheral vein on her. No one else had checked in so I stayed with her and reviewed the care plan.

It was easy to engage her in conversation, and before long Amelia took over. She spoke passionately about a foundation she had started for children with kidney disease. She pulled a business card from her pocket and encouraged me to check out the website she had created for the foundation.

I again looked at her age on the chart: 23.

Patients were starting to arrive in pairs, and I wanted to offer other nurses my assistance, so I handed Amelia a call light. With her chart tucked under my arm, I stepped away, started an IV and helped a patient up to the bathroom. Before returning to Amelia, I sat at the desk with her chart and looked at the physician’s comments on her last diagnostic studies.

Her kidney function was deteriorating by 5% every month. She was going to dialysis twice a month. Her physician was about to recommend weekly visits. Again, the one fact kept coming back to my mind. Amelia was 23. She was spending her spare time raising money for children. She was raising social awareness.

When I introduced myself and asked how she was doing, Amelia responded, “My cup is half full.”

Amelia was unlikely to get medical clearance to travel. There would be no return to Paris. She was unlikely to be around for grandchildren. For that matter, with all the medicine and treatment she was receiving, she was unlikely to be able to have children.

Amelia had a glow about her that defied what I was reading in front of me. I squeezed my eyes shut, then open, to slow the tears starting to come. Then I stood and walked back to the bay where Amelia waited, vowing to make every day matter, just like she was doing.

Amelia reminded me that the quality of what you do with your life is just as important, if not more important, than the quality of the life you live.


Susan Bartlett, RN, BSN, is a perioperative nurse at Health Central in Ocoee, Fla. Post a comment below or email editor@nurse.com.