I remember the night of December 28, 1999, like it was yesterday. It was the night my dad died. I was 18 years old.
When my dad was first diagnosed with colon and liver cancer, his doctor said he had a few months to live. Instead, he lived for three years. He died at home in hospice care after the entire family had a chance to say goodbye. He was only 40.
I know that it was because of my dad that I became a nurse. I didn’t decide to go into nursing right away — the loss of a parent, combined with high school graduation and moving away, was a lot to overcome in one year. It took time and personal growth to get to where I am today. But ten years later, I am a nurse and a proud father. My daughter, Tara, is now five years old (five and three quarters, if you ask her).
One requirement of nursing that has helped me become a better father, is patience. In the hospital, things happen at their own pace, and often at inconvenient times. This is often true with five-year-olds, too. For instance, mornings used to be a stressful time for me when my daughter was getting ready for the day. I would always jump in and try to help her with every task, like tying her shoes. But I found that when I backed off and gave her a little time and space she did great on her own. All she wanted was a chance to try things out and explore for herself. Once I learned to be patient, I was able to see how talented and cool my little girl is!
I work in an intensive care unit at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD. I take pride in my job even though it can be very stressful: multiple doctors on a case, in-room procedures and worrying family members, not to mention all of that charting! No matter how bad my day gets, there is always a little blonde ball of energy waiting for me when I get home, oblivious to the tough day I just had. All Tara wants to do is go to the park, play Legos, or watch Hannah Montana(guilty!). There are few things that are better to help a dad unwind than to play Legos with his five year old.
Tara has started talking about becoming a nurse. Even at five, I can see she would be great at it. She will, however, have to learn one very important thing: listening. While being her dad has taught me the value of patience, I also try to teach her the value of listening. It’s something she’ll definitely need to master if she becomes a nurse! She’ll need to be able to listen to patients, their family members, her colleagues and, most importantly, herself.
Like my dad inspired me, I hope to inspire my daughter to be whatever it is she wants to be — a nurse or anything else. In any case, I just want her to listen to her heart no matter what, and know that her daddy, the nurse, will support and love her through it all.