CANA Global CONNECT: Vol. 2, Issue 1 – Susan Lee

My Aunt’s Legacy

Susan Lee

My compassion for helping others stems from childhood experiences. My life changed when I learned at a young age that my aunt had Down syndrome. Instead of family vacations and road trip adventures, my family and I stayed home and spent our time taking care of my aunt.

My aunt required extensive care and could not perform the daily tasks of an ordinary person. My aunt was not completely toilet trained and often needed assistance. She had to be fed every meal of the day. Her meals were portioned out and cut up into small pieces. There were times when she had to be hospitalized for her hiatal hernia condition. Her stomach protruded through the diaphragm and caused great discomfort. My aunt always lived with struggles and uncertainties and yet, she managed to overcome them. The challenges my aunt faced throughout her life have demonstrated to me how courageous and enduring the human spirit is in its determination to live.

It was shortly after welcoming the New Year, when my aunt’s health deteriorated. She had a pale complexion that started to slowly turn yellow. Her stomach was bloated and churned. My aunt complained of stomach pain. She had lost her appetite and stayed in bed. She became so severely ill that she was rushed to the hospital. On that same evening, my father took me to see her. My aunt ended up staying in the hospital for a little over a month. Each and every trip to the hospital became a new series of events for me. After staying by her bedside for long hours each day, the hospital was a place I became accustomed to. I observed the healthcare workers from different fields who came and assisted her needs.

My aunt’s family doctor, physical therapist, and surgeons were all there. However, I noticed it was the nurses who helped my aunt feel at ease. They monitored the health of my aunt with precision. They each came in with different medical equipment. I witnessed their procedures and I was fascinated by their expertise. One nurse took my aunt’s blood pressure while another nurse recorded the numbers that fluctuated on the heart rate monitor. One nurse gave my aunt fluids and withdrew blood for testing. My aunt’s temperature was taken several times a day and recorded on a machine. Medicine was also administered to her. Not only did the nurses provide care for my aunt, but they also formed relationships with her. Together, the nurses intervened cooperatively to ensure that my aunt received the optimal care. Although my aunt never made it out of the hospital, I knew she fought a strong battle. Without the help of the nurses and doctors who took part in easing her medical condition, it would have been an even more strenuous battle for her.

The experiences I gained from growing up with close family members who were born with Down syndrome taught me how to assist those who are not able to function independently. My aunt also taught me how to communicate efficiently. Being a nurse not only requires one to aid the patient’s health problem, but also requires one to be able to form relationships with the patient. It is important to understand the patient’s feelings and perspective while treating them. I believe that words can heal and comfort a person, not just medicine alone.

I reflect upon the years I spent with my aunt. She has truly opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of life. Not only have I have realized who I am, but also what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. Seeing my aunt struggle with everyday routines inspires me to assist those who also encounter similar challenges. Throughout the last few years, I have truly gotten to understand that my aunt helped me to paint a picture of what my future will be like. Just like the nurses who took part in my aunt’s medical care, I hope someday to make a difference in people’s lives.

Becoming a nurse will help me become a step closer in my dream to help others. Nursing is an occupation where I will constantly be challenged to the best of my ability to be the best I can be by providing preeminent care to patients in need. It will also allow me to become a contributing member of the health care community. In a world where there is a high demand for nurses, I believe I can make a difference.

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