Go to Still Kickin on the web and you can read about how this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization started with a tee shirt. This is not a, "been there, done that, got the tee shirt" reflection. This is a reflection inspired by Still Kickin founder, Nora McInerny Purmort, who gave the talk, "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING" at THE COLLECTIVE, a LAB pop-up event at Loring Social in Minneapolis, this weekend.
Nora's talk was an account of how she became a widow, wrote a book, and started a non-profit in one year. Her candor and delivery style is witty, honest, and refreshing. After hearing her speak on this one occasion, I'm already pre-ordering her book, It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too) and I'm marking my calendar for her book launch party on May 24.
There was a message Nora illuminated in her talk that really resonated with me and the nurse pal who invited me to the event. The message felt akin to the privilege of being a nurse or a caregiver who comes into peoples' lives when they are going through a crisis. "You can fall through space and strangers can catch you," Nora said.
Nora tells about the backstory and the future of 'Still Kickin' in her talks and on her website. These words were displayed on the vintage tee shirt her husband was wearing the day he had a seizure that lead to three years in treatment for brain cancer. The rest of the story is a compelling account of how people they know were joined by strangers from the internet in fundraising activities that exceeded their needs. And now Nora revisits that catch she eluded to by facilitating the same kind of efforts for Still Kickin Heroeseach month.
This is where that message about strangers catching strangers resonates with caregiving professions...and wow, that's a humbling part of the job. We're the ones who might meet you for the first time when you show up in our emergency department, when you come back to our unit after an emergent surgery, or when your child is diagnosed with a condition that will change their course and yours. And we go from zero-to-sixty with you. You are a stranger, but we do what we can to catch you. And here's the thing, you catch us, too.
You amaze us with your willingness to let us into such private, guarded, uncharted moments in your life. You catch us by showing resilience, or maybe by exuding strength in honest tears, and by moving on with diagnoses that are hard to live with while we are simply trying to support you. We catch each other in some of our most personal and professional moments of vulnerability, and that's where the healing relationship begins.
As a nurse, I see the context of tragedy in the immediate moment of diagnoses, in the acute care phase of an illness, and in maintaining necessary boundaries to protect patient and professional privacy. Our relationship ends with discharge, but we don't stop caring about patient and family outcomes at that juncture. We are privileged to walk part of the path with you but we don't ever see (in full color) the layers outside the walls of the clinical environment where we meet.
But there are universal truths in what patients and families have to say about what they are going through when illness strikes. And just like a patient/family panel is always my favorite part of conferences or continuing education offerings, I took so much away from reading accounts springing from Still Kickin heroes, like Scott Serene's on thisdaddys_blog authored before his death. I'm profoundly moved by the universal truths I can read into the experience of a patient I don't know because of what I've seen people endure on our leg of the journey together.
This post is dedicated to patients and families I have and have not known, to caregivers like my friend Ashley who recognize the value of getting to talks like Nora's to stay inspired in the work we do as nurses and humans, and to the Still Kickin vibe.
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