Nurse Wisdom from The ICU at OHSU (5.8.19)

Posted: Wed, May 8, 2019
 “The ICU can seem like a violent place where the body and spirit are under constant assault. Protect your heart. The most courageous thing you can keep in this space is a soft and tender heart.” If we don’t reintubate her now, the doctor said, she will die. He spoke those harrowing words summoning my [...]

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski

 “The ICU can seem like a violent place where the body and spirit are under constant assault. Protect your heart. The most courageous thing you can keep in this space is a soft and tender heart.”
If we don’t reintubate her now, the doctor said, she will die. He spoke those harrowing words summoning my deepest fears in a matter-of-fact way as if reciting a Sears catalogue. I sat alone just outside the room feeling like my already brittle heart was hurled against the wall now broken into a thousand pieces scattered across the floor. A nurse whose name I did not even know came and sat beside me. He placed in my hand a cold cup of water. He placed his arm around my shoulder not knowing he was holding up my very being in that moment. There were no words spoken.
This unexpected tenderness gathered the pieces of my heart gluing them together again.
A cold cup of water from someone whose name I did not even know returned to me my heart and soul so I could go back in that room and be the presence of love I desired to be.
It is a hard, harsh and hostile world. Sometimes it’s just damn hard to be a human being. When life is hard we must protect our hearts from hardening. Now, more than ever, the world needs gentle and tender hearts. At a time when there is so much inhumanity, the gift we can offer is the very best of our humanity.
“When we feel certain the human soul is no longer at work in the world, it’s time to make ours visible to someone, somewhere.” ~Parker Palmer How can we make our soul more visible? In such a harsh and hostile world, how can we keep our hearts tender and soft? Surrounded by so much ugliness, how can we summon forth the beauty in our souls?
Make eye contact. Smile often. Don’t hide behind your devices. Share stories. Listen generously and with the same intensity that you desire to be heard. Be present. Forgive easily. Let others know it’s ok not to be ok. Be a soft place to land.
Oh, and be kind. Never underestimate the power of a cold cup of water. Never underestimate the impact of kindness in the human soul. Not just for the recipient but to you, too.