This morning a nurse friend and I had a conversation about The Ones That Get to You. These are the patients who, for undefinable reasons, just get to you. Somehow you connect with them on a different level than with your other patients. They are the patients who wander into your thoughts on your days off. Routine or mundane tasks caring for them aren't bothersome or easily put off. When they or their family members say "Thank you," and you respond, "No problem," what you are really saying is: "No, thank you. Thank you for reminding me again why I am a nurse, why it is important that I come to work, for providing me with the inspiration and energy to do my job..."
I wish I could say that all of my patients inspire me to give my whole self to my job and my tasks, but they don't. I don't slack off or not care about the other patients, but The Ones That Get to You are special. As my colleague put it, from the moment you feel that connection with these special patients, something tugs at your heart and starts to hurt a little. Because caring that much more about them means hoping that much harder. You lose just a smidge of your "professional objectivity" and you start to believe that maybe this patient is the one that fits into the "10% survival rate" category. You cling just a little bit more to the lab values that start trending positively. And you hurt a whole lot more when things don't go well, because you hoped just that little bit harder. But in exchange for the disappointment and the hurt and the loss when they lose their fight, you had that connection. You witnessed courage, strength, and in the end, peace.
The Ones That Get to You are the ones that I would much rather have met for the first time at cocktail party, or standing in line at Starbucks, or at the dog park. Because, then, in a perfect world, that would mean they didn't have cancer, and maybe we would have been friends.