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Losing my Dad to AIDS was my lemon. Becoming an RN has been my lemonade.
I had just turned 11 years old and moved back in with my beloved Daddy when he told me that he was dying. It was 1990, all I knew was what we had been told in school (blood transfusions, same- sex intercourse, IV drug use will give you HIV that leads to AIDS). I will never forget the day that he told me; he came out of the house through the back door, coughing as he snapped up his sheepskin-lined jean jacket. He asked me if I had ever heard of AIDS, and what I knew about it. So I told him what I had been taught in school and he told me that he was dying of it… I was in shock and denial. How could God be so great and take my “superman” away from me?
Many years and heartbreaks later, I found myself a single mother with only a GED. My mother and step-father were amazing to welcome me and my baby girl into their home, in a very remote area outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I knew that waiting tables was not going to give my daughter the life that I wanted for her, so I chose to go to nursing school. (Mind you, I had no desire to be a nurse. June Cleaver was much more of a role model to me, as I thought that all nurses had to be “Suzie Sunshine”, which I have never been). So there I was in nursing school, and had to actually work for something (for once in my life). It took a lot of soul-searching, at which point I was blessed with the memory of how wonderful my Daddy’s Hospice nurses were, despite the stigma associated with AIDS.
I had decided that I wanted to work as an Oncology nurse, only working with cancer and AIDS patients. I was “blessed” with my experience to help sick, terminal patients and their families, and in my mind, I thought, “who cares if you got an infection from your cat scratching you?” I quickly learned that everyone’s hospital experience is scary and makes them vulnerable. Not everyone has suffered a great loss or “terminal” disease. Since then, I have become an ER nurse and I thank God every day for my experiences of loss. I would not be the nurse that I am today if it were not for those experiences.
Being depressed, sad and bitter for the rest of my life would mean that my Daddy’s death would have been in vain. So I take the time to hold the hands of scared patients and family members, even if it is a “minor” condition. Everyone’s perceptions and experiences are different and it is not my job to judge. It is my job to comfort and advocate for my patients and their families. That is my lemonade.