Last month, I gave my fourth talk at a nursing school, this one was Shoreline Community College, north of Seattle. I start off by showing the students a short video of our tiny son with a ventilator tube down his throat and other wires and tubes all over his body. I go on to explain about the problem of the doctor who did not want to treat him, saying that 22 weeks and 6 days of gestation was too soon. Then I move in to concepts of medical ethics I found in textbooks (not that I’ve ever taken a class like theirs) before telling stories of things that nurses did that made a difference, finally giving some suggestions for how patient counseling could be improved. I end with a video of Gabriel trying to convince me that he is a “mad boy” despite his huge, bright smile, which earns some laughs.

I’ve gotten better at speaking, ironing out the ah’s and er’s that I hate about public speaking. I see the audience nodding and looking at me, but I don’t really know how this affects them until the very end when people come up to talk to me personally. What’s astonished me from giving this talk several times is the number of people out there who have had experiences more startling than ours!

At Shoreline, when I finished, the first student to talk to me was a woman who’s had two preemies. She said:

“I had a son at 23 weeks and did not survive – exact same situation as you guys, but a different outcome. And I had another child at 32 weeks, a daughter, and she’s 6 now. That’s why I’m becoming a nurse, so there’s good in all this.”

Another student, a man, said: “I ended up staying a month in the hospital during pre-term labor starting at 22 weeks, though luckily our kiddo made it to 37 weeks. I had a friend whose baby was born at 22 weeks and didn’t make it, so it was interesting to hear the other end of the spectrum in terms of making it through. I was up there being super emotional up top. It brought back a lot of very vivid memories about being in that unit.”
It’s humbling that people are willing to share such difficult stories with me, and it’s difficult for me to imagine what they went through. And, I have to say that I’m in awe of the mom who told me that story, that she wants to be a nurse after that experience. I don’t think I’d like to ever go back to a NICU as hearing the sound of a desaturation alarm would make me pass out on the floor.
Below is a video of these conversations with the students:

Earlier, during the question-and-answer time as a group, one student asked me what my dream outcome was, and what they could do to help. Here’s a short video of that exchange:

And finally, the video of the entire presentation is available here:

 

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