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Saying goodbye

I am finishing my last day here at the hospital. As I sit here at my desk for the last time, I take a deep breath and let the memories flood in. What an experience it has been.

Gratitude fills my heart.

I was first welcomed here as a research non-employee while completing my doctorate in Chinese medicine and then became staff as an acupuncturist on a study in the ICU investigating acupuncture for pain and comfort in children on mechanical ventilation. This was then followed by the opportunity to contribute to the development of one of the first full-time inpatient acupuncture programs in a pediatric hospital. It felt like a huge accomplishment as only a few pediatric hospitals offered inpatient acupuncture. It was an opportunity I never could have dreamed of. Eight years later, almost to the date, I am choosing to depart from this path and pave a new one.

I have grown as a person and as an acupuncturist in this role. I have learned to use the knowledge gained in acupuncture school to think in a creative outside-the-box way to formulate my diagnosis and treatment, as many of the patients we see here have conditions and Western diagnoses that can’t be read about in Chinese medicine textbooks. I have learned to use research to support what I do in an evidence-informed, rather than evidence only dictated, way. I have “given it a go” to write my own studies, and while I have achieved publication on several collaborative projects, I recognize that I still have a lot to learn. I have never let a “no” or an “I don’t think you can do it” stop me from trying when the fight it worth fighting for.

I've studied. I’ve laughed. I have played games with children during their treatment. I have stayed at the bedside and encouraged children to breathe through difficult moments. I have shared my story with a few. I’ve hoped. I've prayed…and I have cried.

I sat down my first time doing acupuncture in the OR because I wondered if I would pass out at the site of blood in that setting never having been there in that role. Thankfully I didn’t and the treatment was successful. I visited the OR multiple times after that to provide intraoperative acupuncture treatments for postoperative nausea and vomiting. These treatments quickly became some of my favorites both because of the unique setting and the fact that it was so rewarding to see the majority of patients feel significantly better afterwards.

I have been challenged in ways I didn’t know I could overcome, both academically and emotionally. I have had patients who have flown here for care only this hospital provides. I have had the honor of serving patients kept alive only by the wonders and mechanics of Western medicine. I have felt the pulse of a patient that just received a new heart...several times. I have hugged a mom who is saying goodbye to her child. I have learned about resilience from the smallest and the most ill. I have had patients who have overcome the worst of odds and patients that haven’t. I feel confident in knowing that I have at times reduced a child's pain, improved their comfort, and alleviated some aspect of their suffering.

During my first co-treat with music therapy, we worked with a child that was terminally ill. Together, the music from his guitar and my hands moved with the patients slowing breaths. For a moment, the space was transformed into something magical. We were no longer aware of the beeps or alarms that hospital rooms often have. A peacefulness like nothing else came over the room. We sat together with the family and held this space.

I have gotten the flu shot because while it wasn’t sounding particularly effective that particular year, I knew it might be one less thing that a baby in the NICU or an immune-compromised cancer patient would have to deal with if I somehow came to work asymptomatic and passed the flu on to them. And this year, I’ve rocked a mask and face shield at the hospital just like every other provider and person I pass in the hallway…doing our part to keep our patients and everyone else as safe as possible. I would do it all again if it meant it might keep your child or you, my child or me, shielded from one less germ. It was here that I watched other working moms and learned that it was possible to both embrace your role as a mother, but also be passionate about your career, constantly reevaluating the balance between the two.

There have been many a day that I’ve paused amidst my day to remember ALL that I have to be grateful for…and I don’t forget it for a second.

This experience has been nothing short of amazing. I am changed for the better because of it and I leave with a sense of completion for this leg of my journey. As I close my door here for the last time and look back…I am grateful.

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