One More Day

a poem by
THERESE WOOD | Nurse + Writer 

I am a registered nurse case manager. This means I am assigned to patients who have had catastrophic accidents, or have a serious medical diagnosis. My work involves helping them navigate the system and get the best care possible. Sometimes, there are good outcomes, but often there is a diagnosis or injury that has a poor prognosis, and the suffering for the patient and their loved ones can be intense. Two of my three children were stricken with serious medical challenges throughout their young lives into adulthood, and my experience with them is the grounding force that helps me in my day-to-day work. Sometimes, I can help to change and improve a patient’s care, and other times I can provide just a listening ear, to be present and honor their heartache. Without my own life experience I don’t think I would be the nurse I am today. I am inspired by the way people can find hope and resilience under the most difficult of circumstances, and this makes my job more meaningful.

Photo by Noah Silliman

MY days are spent weaving in and out of people’s lives
Those who have been laid bare by catastrophic illness
Or those whose lives have been changed in an instant by trauma.

I listen to the stories, all riddled with pain and sorrow, and offer support and concrete help when I can
I often tell them that I cannot imagine how hard this must be
But that’s a lie
I have only to look back to my own past to remember a time
When I felt unmoored and outwitted by heartache and disease.

My daughter was a young teen and had just been discharged from a psychiatric hospital
For suicidal ideation
I tucked her gently into bed that night, her matted hair snarled against the pillow, dark circles pooling under her sad, weary eyes.

She pulled me closer and whispered “Will you get all the sharp objects out of the house?”
My heart clutched with pain. I kissed her forehead and told her yes, absolutely. Sleep well, honey.

It was a helpless feeling to see my darling girl, so frail from years of fighting depression, struggling to stay on the planet another day.

I shut her door quietly, tip toed down the hall, and then ,with my heart racing wildly, I ran through every single room in the house with a bag.

In went knives, scissors, meat thermometer, knitting needles, pencils, nails, razors, staples and then
I went back through and took the medications, rope, twine, yarn, safety pins and matches.

Out the front door barefoot in my robe I popped the trunk and put in all my findings
Back inside I took a look around the house, and before turning off the light in each room, I surveyed each space, looking for weapons of death.

That night I slept with the car keys under my pillow and woke the next day to find my daughter
Still alive.

Today I will sit with a young mother whose daughter has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and there is nothing good to say, no magic to take away this tsunami of sorrow that has washed up into their lives.

And so I listen.



Nurse + Writer

Besides being a registered nurse, I am a writer.  I have written essays under my previous name, Therese Dawe, mostly about death and dying and the resilience of the human spirit, which is an interest of mine. I am interested in our culture and it’s attitude toward suffering, death, disease. I see it on a daily basis, and yet, aside from pink ribbons and marathons, few people want to talk about the grit and grind of chronic illness and the toll it takes. I’m inspired by people who struggle with depression, illness, and trauma. I try to bring a bit of tenderness into my interactions with them, as often there is little else to offer.

Enjoy more of Therese Wood’s work at Lansing Online News.