I believe “little things” make all big things possible. Something very big, a new life I call Life 2.0, was made possible for me because of the little things nurses do through their caring, compassionate, and giving ways—formulating for me a new life I never imagined possible.
Sensing my anxiety, just before emergency heart surgery, the nurse about to start my IV took my hand, and with warmth and compassion emitting from her face said, “It’s okay, let’s take our time, nothing will happen until you are okay and ready. I take pride in doing it right for our patients like you.”
Opening my eyes for the first time post-surgery, I was greeted with a warm welcome by nurse Brent. Sensing his confidence, experience, knowledge, compassion, and passion, I also noticed him ministering to my wife. It was such a little thing to take the time to express his encouragement and to ensure she understood what was happening with me. By tending to her, he raised my determination to recover well.
Nurse Elizabeth made a game out of which of us will most accurately guess my blood sugar readings every hour. Rather than yearning for morphine as she approached, I focused on playing and winning our game. Elizabeth was purposeful, thoughtful, and kind and gave me a mental break from the pain. She didn’t have to do this; she chose to offer this little thing, our game, for my benefit.
Walking around the nurse’s station, for the first time after surgery, nurse Barbara greeted me with a high five saying, “You are my rock star.” I didn’t get a job promotion; I didn’t win the lottery; I didn’t win an award. All I did is walk around a nurse’s station. I felt important; I felt acknowledged and valued.
Nurse Rob, unassigned to me, visited me to help out during a busy day on the floor. He helped me with breathing, showed me how to get up and down, and just chatted with me, demonstrating how important I was, which made a lasting impression on me.
Feeling apprehensive about having my drainage tubes removed, the nurse practitioner, Tammy, explained what was going to happen. After the first one was out, thinking just one more to go, I heard “All done!” She removed both at the same time so I did not have to experience it twice.
One day, I am unsuccessful at getting up from the bed on my own. Half standing and half sitting, afraid to make another move, I saw nurse Carol at my door. She was not assigned to me, but came in my room and with a smile asks, “Can I offer you some help?” She didn’t have to stop and tend to me, but yet she did.
It isn’t the high five itself, the blood sugar game, or being called “rock star;” it is that these little things become your daily affirmation of my value, relevance, and importance as a human being. These affirmations inspire me to give back and to do the same in my life. Rather than living a life focused on me, why not do what nurses do and live focused on others by affirming their value? I learn from nurses that doing so is a form of love that each of us has available to give.
Nurses, you are the main cog in the wheel of patient care—our lifeline. You take us into your care when we are often at our worst. You work tirelessly and selflessly to care for us, nourish us, teach us, improve us, and never ask for anything in return. When we leave your care, we are most likely not fully recovered. You work so hard on our behalf and rarely get to see us at our best. In some ways, this seems unfair, both to you and your patient. But I hope you will remember this—we move on, we move forward, but we never forget.
My new life is built upon your example and your demonstration that little things can, indeed, create significant outcomes. Although I can never fully repay you, I will continue to remind all of you of the extraordinary place you hold in my heart—of your relevance, importance, and value.
Nurses, as patients, we thank you for supporting us, thank you for believing in us, and thank you for caring for us in ways that no one else could.
Kevin Kirksey has lived and documented his story of profound transformation to living Life 2.0 in his book Life 2.0 – A Journey From Near Death to New Life. Kevin’s journey, including the unusual set of circumstances that led to his extended and enhanced life, has been shared with many through writing, speaking, print media, internet, and television. Kevin works with healthcare organizations and the American Heart Association to raise awareness of cardiac disease so that lives can be saved, restored, extended, and enhanced. Kevin and his family reside in Dallas, Texas, USA.