I had been awake and working for almost 32 hours. I’m an organ procurement coordinator and we frequently work 24-hour shifts, but this day had pushed me past my limits. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t cut out for the world of organ donation, that I was too old for what is clearly a young person’s game. At 35, I’m the oldest person at our organization who takes a full call schedule. I was exhausted, but instead of feeling exhilarated by the medical miracle I had helped accomplish, I was feeling defeated. I kept thinking Why do I do this to myself?
I was in dire need of sleep, but I was hungry, and my stomach was growling so loudly I was afraid it would keep me awake. I stopped to pick up some Chinese food.
A man dressed in work boots, jeans and a flannel shirt was standing in the restaurant waiting for his food and noticed I was wearing scrubs. He saw me and made a face like he had seen something repulsive. “I didn’t think you medical types worked on Saturdays.” I replied that health care was a 24-hour/365-days-a-year kind of job, but I was really thinking Of course nurses work on Saturdays!
He said, “Oh, you want overtime so you can buy more stuff. You must get double time on a Saturday.”
I said that I was more interested in sleep than the money.
Clearly trying yet again to rile me, he asked, “Didn’t anyone ever teach you that there are things more important in life than money?”
Normally I would just smile and walk away, but I couldn’t help myself. “I’ve been awake and working the last 32 hours because I work in organ donation. I worked all night to help save a seven-year-old girl’s life. I didn’t do it for the money. Organ donation teaches you that money doesn’t mean much.”
His demeanor instantly changed. With a big grin, he said, “Oh, you’re an angel!”
I said no, I was just a nurse who happened to work in organ donation.
“No,” he said, “you’re an angel. I got my new kidney two years ago.”
I walked away with a smile on my face and a much-needed reminder of why I do what I do…all because I was wearing scrubs.
Contributed by Jennifer Heisler, RN