What’s on my mind about nursing? Gratitude.

Hand-stamped notecards covered my dining room table last August. Loving messages were written for a woman who was waiting for a heart. Yesterday she got that heart, and these notecards are going in the mail to decorate her hospital room.
Last August I hand-stamped a dining room table full of notecards the night before a benefit, Picnic with a Purpose. Loving messages were written by guests at said benefit for a woman who was waiting for a heart. Yesterday she got that heart, and next week I'll hand deliver these notecards to her - and to her new, grateful heart.

I work for a hospital that is sponsoring a wellness program that launched today: Attitude of Gratitude.  This self-accountability activity is one that aims to foster a grateful heart.  Tonight I reached out to a dear friend whose mom received the gift of life yesterday - a new heart.  I asked my friend if I could dedicate a blog post to her and to her mother as I reflect on fostering a grateful heart.  I'm so glad she said yes.

Two years ago Saturday I received a call from my friend Tanya.  She had just received the news that her mother needed a heart transplant.  For two years, I have watched Tanya and her mother do everything humanly possible to prepare for receiving this gift of life.  The to-do list was not short, nor for the faint of heart, but even with a heart that was failing her, Terry Olsen took stride to become the best steward she could be for an organ given by another soul.  And her daughter Tanya kept pace at her side.  Let me tell you one of the most heartfelt stories of gratitude I've ever witnessed.

A fellow nurse, I witnessed my friend Tanya read and research with a scientist's eye, the process and procedure she and her mom were preparing for.  She made countless drives with her mom to appointments, often leaving home before sunrise and returning after sunset.  She made and packed sandwiches and snacks to sustain long days of appointments and the miles between home and the facility where things were first scheduled to happen.  Then, she stood by her mother in seeking out a program and facility closer to home to endure transplantation.  This Sunday morning she met me for pancakes just three hours shy of her mom going into surgery to have her heart transplant, and I am so grateful for the window into this journey she has opened for my eyes and heart.  I have witnessed this miracle of organ transplantation through the firsthand account of my gracious friend and her mom, and I am beside myself tonight as I write this account of what it's been to witness this process.

How do you begin to follow-through on, "how can I help?" when you stand by someone who is preparing their mind, body, and spirit for what might be the best or the worst outcome imaginable in the advances of modern medicine?  This friend is the one who will swoop in on any friend to be there when the need arises.  She is the friend who never fails to send written thanks.  When preparing for the benefit I planned with others in our circle of friends, Tanya was the friend who was writing thank you notes to acknowledge the time and energy we were spending weeks before the benefit even occurred.  Little does she know, the gratitude is ours for being let in on this path of seeing what it means to foster a grateful heart.

On this journey to a new heart for her mom, Tanya became an Ambassador for LifeSource, the organization that saves lives through organ and tissue donation, serving communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  Tanya spoke to her first group of critical care nurses recently.  She reflected that many moments in a nurse's day are routine, but they are someone else's once-in-a-lifetime.

The miraculous advances in medicine that provide for transplantation are not every nurse's daily routine.  But one common denominator among nursing peers and our partners in healing is the fact that we are all on our own wellness journey while we deliver care to others.  I'm starting my Attitude of Gratitude challenge with a simple practice that is sure to be a source of personal wellness: a family gratitude journal to adorn our dining room table and conversation.  There are countless (and some elaborate!) examples of gratitude journaling, like this one from Writing Forward.  I spent less than $2 on a traditional composition notebook that is sure to hold a composition that reflects a daily Attitude of Gratitude.

This self-accountable journal practice is dedicated to Tanya, to her mother, and to the donor of Terry's gift of life.  May we all be so fortunate to be touched by stories that instill compassion as we aim to deliver our care with that touch.  To read more moving accounts of donating life, or to become involved in the mission of promoting organ and tissue donation, visit the LifeSource website.   If you have an account of a life-giving donation, of gratitude in practice, or of what's on your mind about nursing, I'd love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment here or reach out to me at: natalie@thereflectivenurse.org

Today I am grateful to know that my dear friend Tanya's mom has a new heart that is beating strong.
Today I am grateful to know that my dear friend Tanya's mom has a new heart that is beating strong.  Terry Olsen, you are the essence of a grateful heart.  Mine is forever touched for knowing both of your hearts.



4 thoughts on “What’s on my mind about nursing? Gratitude.

    1. TheRN

      Thank you, Mary! I was honored to write this post and I'm grateful for the good energy that is sent Terry and Tanya's way as people read their story. Keeping this family and the donor family close to my own heart in this time to come...uplifted by readers who share that they are doing the same.


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