This poem was the product of a therapeutic run after a horrendous shift at work. On September 16, 2011, there was an airplane crash at the Reno Air Race event. This event was later known as the “fourth deadliest airshow disaster in U.S history” leaving 11 people dead and 69 more injured.
I was working in the ER that day and you could feel the energy in the air shift as we started getting news that an airplane had crashed into the stands where the audience was sitting. I had been an ER nurse for about a year at that time and I had not yet been trained in trauma. The nurses around me who were trained in trauma started getting nervous. The reports we were getting that were meant to help us prepare for the worst painted a grim picture. There were people with missing limbs, shrapnel wounds, burns, and large lacerations. Carts and carts of supplies started materializing in the hallways of the emergency room. Trauma trained nurses that were off for the day had heard the news and started showing up in uniform asking where they were needed. We even had surgeons that were in town visiting showing up at the hospital asking if their services could be of use. The community was rocked to the core and the medical community was preparing for the worst. No amount of nursing school could have prepared me for what happened next. We were hammered with wave after wave of severely injured people. There were screams, there was terror, there was blood, there was chaos. And in the midst of that chaos I was in complete awe at the beautiful dance that began to play out amongst all of the emergency room staff. Lives were being saved, screams comforted, and blood being cleaned away almost as quickly as it fell. I have never been more proud to be part of such an incredible team.
After witnessing all of the trauma and the beauty in the chaos I had no idea how to feel. It seemed as if I had this cyclone of emotion was racing through me all at once. Every emotion was fighting for the chance to be felt. Not only did this event imprint images into my brain that can not be unseen, but it also triggered flashbacks images of trauma that I had witnessed over that first year of my ER nursing career. Stab wound, gunshot holes, the bruised faces and beaten bodies of child abuse cases, the battered wounds from car accidents, and so much more. It was all still there, no matter how hard I tried to forget. I learned that there are things that can not be unseen.
Running was my outlet. I ran and ran and ran until I could not run anymore. After that run, this poem came pouring out of me. It has been trapped in a notebook since September 2011 and for whatever reason, it has decided to resurface today and is begging to be shared.
Music loud, lungs breathing in life, soul bleeding, feet running fast, desperate to keep up with the cyclone of emotions ripping through the inside. Anger, fear, sadness, concern, worry, gratitude, guilt, sensory overload.
Anger over humanities carelessness and willingness cause harm.
Fear. Can they be saved? Will there be more? How badly are they injured? Is our safety in jeopardy? So much chaos, noise, blood. Too much.
Sadness and concern. So much death, so much pain, so much loss. Children, babies, those who have devoted their lives to helping others. Those who have been taken in the line of duty, or were they consumed by it? Will we have enough resources?
Worry. Are our loved ones ok? Is it someone we know? Our friends and family are concerned about us. Our phones blowing up. Knowing that we have been rocked to our core yet we have a life to save, a call light to answer, an empty room to fill. People are scared, eyes glued to the news reports on TV. People who need a warm smile, a hand to hold, who need to be comforted. They need to hear that it is going to be ok, even if we don’t know.
Gratitude through the guilt. Or is it guilt through the gratitude? I am still alive and unharmed. My loved ones are ok. No one I know was injured. So much relief washed away by the guilt of knowing that my little world is safe and unharmed when so many others have been shattered. We are ok. Everyone here is not ok, but we are ok.
Sensory overload. Flashes of missing limbs, bullet holes, blood. So much blood. Screams of terror, loss, and pain. Flashes of bruises on little thighs, little arms, and little faces. Little eyes filled with the tears of pain and sadness. Flashes of stressed and scared faces. Flashes of raw flesh.
Knowing that in the this chaos, in this moment, we have an important role to play. That cyclone shoved deep, deep down. Smiles on, hands working, lives saved. Shoulder to shoulder in the trenches of suffering.
Breath ragged, music slows, legs shaking, heart pounding, emotional cyclone tamed. For now. Soul still raw, but no longer bleeding. Somehow less heavy then when I woke up. Hug your children and cherish your loved ones because you never know if this day will be the last.
Even then, in 2011, I recognized that nurses are imperative and the role requires so much emotional restraint. We feel but we can not show. We are scared but we have to be strong. We are overwhelmed but we must stay calm. This is what is required of our role so that our patients and their families feel comforted and cared for. Nurses gladly do this, and so much more but there is a price to pay. A soul price. Having been a nurse since 2005, I have paid that price many times. I realize that there is a great need for a safe place for nurses to share, to show, to process, so that we are not consumed or trapped by that cyclone that rips through. It has to be let out. I believe that is these experiences, feeling trapped by that cyclone, and knowing that all of my fellow nurses have felt the depths of those emotions, that has led me to being a life coach for nurses. I am excited to share my online Stress to Strength course with you and I look forward to creating many more trainings just for nurses to help ease the burden of that soul price.