summer 2017

The main character of DC’s Wonder Woman sure had some lofty ideals.  I walked into the movie skeptical (I normally dislike superhero movies), and walked out surprised, because I enjoyed the whole thing.

It’s probably because I’m leaving the trenches of hospital nursing- what I will always consider nursing-on-the-frontline.  Inpatient work is hard, fast-paced, and utterly unpredictable.  And most nights there, I was trying to fight this huge thing called Sickness but the best I could do was assessment after assessment and push IV narcotics and sweat through rapid responses with my patients.

But, back to Wonder Woman. There are two scenes that struck me deeply- the first is as Diana is valiantly “on her way to the front” of the Great War because she is convinced she can end it.  And she walks on a bridge near the docks and she sees the wounded men returning from war. It is ugly and it is shocking, and it gives her pause.  Suddenly the idea of war takes on a new meaning for her. She sees it in the eyes of the men, in the blood on their arms, in the limbs that aren’t there anymore.

And in our pre-nursing days, we too walked the gangplank and gazed upon the sick and the hurting and we saw God’s beautiful design for the body ravaged by that evil Sickness.  Most of us saw a family member suffer, really suffer, from pneumonia or heart disease or diabetes or a car wreck or cancer.  And we have big and genuine hearts and we couldn’t sit by and do nothing, so we did something.  We joined the mission of the Great Physician- healing for all. We went to school, and we were trained hard.  It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t sexy.  The weight we carried was not swords, but textbooks, and our nights were not spent working the body with cool acrobatic battle moves, but the mind with ceaseless studying.  We quietly conquered the world of class and clinical, and we left jubilant.  We felt we could save the world.

And we got the job, put on our brand-new scrubs, unsullied with dirt or sweat or blood or IV fluid gone haywire, and we went to work.  We stepped into the hospital with an ideal of how we were going to save our patients.   And we quickly found that though Sickness may be the great thing we war against, there are little enemies on the way: the steroids that won’t let the patient have the rest she needs, the crippling depression that drives the man down the hall to the drug dealer, the harrowing lag time between when the troponin level is drawn and when it is resulted.

And so we labor on, day by day.  It’s not glamorous.  It’s hanging antibiotics for the 18-millionth time and changing the incontinent man who has c. diff…again.  It’s calling the doctor, apologetic, informing him that the third anti-emetic drug has done nothing to ease your cancer patient’s nausea.  It’s not glorious, not anything close to Wonder Woman using her glowing lasso-thing and defeating that evil god of war.  Nothing like.  It’s can be tedious and it is certainly often stressful.  Human lives are in our hands and we feel the weight of it every day.  And so we labor on.

But why, why do we labor on? On to the second scene I found insightful:  there’s a moment where Diana and Steve are dancing (swaying, whatever) and she asks something like, “What do people do when there is no war?” and the answer Steve gives is touchingly mundane.  “They have breakfast.”  He continues, “They grow up.  The fall in love, get married, have a couple of kids.  They grow old together.”

And the simplicity of that struck me, and my eyes watered (please don’t judge).  This is why we are nurses.  We labor in the gloriously mundane so you can have the gloriously mundane.  We hang antibiotics and start IVs and fetch warm blankets and do CPR because we want you to eat breakfast and read the paper and sip coffee and go to work and come home in the evenings and go to sleep and do it all over again.  We want all this for you without ambulances and heart attacks and seizures and every other kind of malady.  All we want for you is a normal, sweet life.

And so we labor on, trained to partake in this great thing called healing, which, of course, is  really in the hands of the Great Physician.  And we stoop, as He does, and hold hands and clean poop and administer medicine and comfort families. And because of this I believe that in our own, quiet way, we are wonder-women, and wonder-men.

And sometimes I would sit, there on night shift, and dream of the day when he comes back and we can dance in these halls instead.  And there will be a hundred thousand million glorious days afterwards.  The time is coming.  And so we wonder-men and wonder-women labor on, this labor of ours, labor of nurses, labor of Christ.

O Lord, come soon.

-a.m.