Tom is a pharmacist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where I am a nurse. Walking through the door this November morning, there is no “Good Morning, Kath,” no smile and a wave or early morning chat to catch up on family news, as he makes his way to his work station. I immediately sense that something is wrong. This fun-loving, always upbeat guy looks sullen and is fighting back tears.
When I ask why, he shares the devastating news that his good friend Jeff has just taken his wife Christine off of life support after receiving injuries in a car accident. Overnight, Jeff has become a 33-year-old widower and a single parent of their 22 month old daughter.
I do my best to comfort Tom, listening to the story and details of his friend’s tragic loss. In the months that follow, I hear more about Jeff and his many struggles and sense that it is difficult for Tom. While Tom deals with his own grief for Christine, he is at the same time trying to find ways to help Jeff and Jeff’s young daughter.
I have always been grateful to go home at the end of a workday after taking care of sick babies, attending high risk deliveries and interacting with grieving families. However, on the days I listen to stories about Jeff and his wife’s death while I try to support Tom in his grief, I feel a new sense of gratitude for the life my husband and I share.
Now, when I arrive home to find my husband Chris and two-year old son playing in our living room, I hug them both a little tighter. Watching them laugh and play together, I cement these images in my memory and feel like the luckiest woman alive – that is until four months later when I receive a phone call from Chris’ co-worker telling me there has been an accident and Chris has been taken to the hospital…