To the PICU Nurse Who Cares for Sick Children (and Their Worried Parents)

At 2 a.m., you have another energy drink and rubs your tired eyes. Your feet move fast across the intensive care unit floor. You care not only for sick children, but for their worried, exhausted parents as well. It’s just a pillow, just a ginger ale, just you talking to my son and making him giggle — you’re gentle and kind, and I don’t think you know how much it means to us.

Real, raw compassion can’t be faked; it can’t be mimicked with selfish intentions. Compassion is out of love, and when my baby boy came into this world holding on for dear life, I started a journey that showed me the compassionate side of this cruel world. I’ve met people like Amy, people who work late shifts with long hours. People whose feet hurt and whose eyes are heavy, yet you can see the love in them, and for that love I am eternally grateful.

I see you, Amy, and I wish I’d told you these three things:

1. You’re not just a nurse; you’re comfort when I can’t be here. You choose to be the “bad guy” in order to heal these children. You administer shots, place IVs and slowly fill your heart with each and every patient, although they associate you with the pain. I believe you are everything God wanted human beings to be. It is humility, and it is pure love. I believe you’re serving a purpose bigger than yourself. You are amazing.

2. I know you experience the grief of losing the little lives you’ve worked so tirelessly to mend, for nothing more than to see to it that child will smile again. When all efforts are exhausted, and the time comes, you hold families’ hands as they have to say goodbye. That is not for a paycheck. That is love. That is selflessness. You cry for us and stay awake at night for our children, even on your days off. There are just some of them who will likely never leave your mind or your heart.

3. It might wear on you and hurt, and perhaps you question if you want to do it anymore. In the end, you go back, you go back to the little hands and the beautiful heads. You return to the fragile babies and worried parents. It seems you hardly give your heart a night’s worth of healing before you go back to the hospital and allow those sweet children to tear your heart open again, but you do it. I believe you do it because you love it and you love them.

You may think we parents don’t see you. You may think our frustrations are aimed at you, but they’re not. We’re frustrated with what the world has handed us and scared for our child’s wellbeing.

You are appreciated.

I love the extra effort you make to get scrubs with silly faces on them. I appreciate how you carry my daughter’s gift of a flower petal in your pocket. I see that little girl’s picture paper-clipped to your chart. You carry her with you, you carry her home and in the car, because I believe you’re forever tied to this place of healing, fighting and sadness. You’re a part of this side of the world so many never see, are afraid to see and pretend isn’t there. You are amazing, and you have chosen to embrace the fragile ones. You have chosen to shift your energy in order to give and grieve for the sake of a child’s smile.

If you don’t love yourself completely, I sincerely hope you will one day — because to me, that is true beauty.

Follow this journey on Four East Hearts.

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