I had the pleasure right before Christmas of going to my two daughters' first piano recital. They hadn't been taking lessons long. I had just picked up our $250 piano off Craig's List in October, so they were still newbies. A large audience of parents and friends watched as kids ranging in age from roughly 5 to 15 with various skill levels approached the stage in the modest, old church and sat down to play their music. Towards the end of the recital, a student named Shirley was announced. I thought "Shirley... Hmmm you don't see many kids named Shirley these days". It turned out Shirley was in fact not a kid. Shirley looked to be at least well into her 50's and she played a beginner/early intermediate piece very nicely. I noticed some of the audience members kind of smirked at the older student. However, as I thought back on the recital later that night, I realized that I was pretty impressed. It takes courage and initiative to learn a new skill as an adult, especially in front of an audience.
A little over a year ago when I was still working in the ER, I had a patient on New Year's Eve who had been hurt badly in a fall. She was a local college student who, while attempting to climb from one 3rd floor balcony to another in the dorms (apparently a common activity), fell onto the concrete below. She had not been drinking, later confirmed with a negative serum ETOH. We'll call her Jane. Jane had multiple fractures in her left arm and left lower leg. Her head CT amazingly showed no damage. She had several lacerations, only one of which needed suturing. Her vital signs were stable. An orthopedic surgeon was called in to fix her fractures up. A general surgeon was to evaluate her as well for any possible internal injuries. My other patients were all waiting on rooms at that time, so I actually had a chance to talk to Jane and get to know her a little bit while she waited for the OR. She told me that she was in the Navy ROTC at the college. She wanted to be a fighter pilot and maybe even an astronaut. She was concerned because she said the orthopedic surgeon wanted to fix her limbs with metal hardware and apparently fighter pilots can't have metal in their bodies. She told me that the surgeon mentioned she may be able to get the hardware removed at a later date, so that she could be eligible to be a pilot. Soon she was whisked off to Preop and the OR. The last I heard of her she was going back into surgery for a lacerated spleen and then up to the ICU. With all the orthopedic surgery and the possibility of a splenectomy, I assumed her dream of being a Navy pilot and astronaut was over.
Fast forward to this past week. I was in Phase II Recovery with one other nurse. I had just discharged a patient and was tidying up the bay. Through the curtain I could hear a conversation between the nurse next to me and her patient, who was getting ready to be discharged. As I was listening to them talk, I realized the patient was Jane. I mean how many young female patients do we get who had a bad accident and want to be Navy pilots? At my hospital at least, not that many. I peeked around the curtain, and there was Jane. I introduced myself. Of course she did not remember me...I had given her a fair amount of morphine in the ER. She told me that she had been in surgery that day to remove the last of the hardware in her body. She was eligible to meet the physical requirements to pursue her dream career. The general surgeon had been able to repair her spleen without removing it. She was currently training for a 5k. Unbelievable.
Now bear with me here...I know a middle aged woman learning how to play the piano and a college senior wanting to join the Navy don't seem to have a lot in common. However, these women both struck me as being very courageous in their own ways. They were not content with simply maintaining their status quo. I'm over in my little corner of the world wondering if I should go back for my long overdue BSN or if it's too late, too hard, too expensive, etc. When I look at Shirley and Jane, I wish I were more like them. I want to go out on a limb, but am scared to venture out of my treehouse.