Vital Signs

“Do you feel a pulse?” Someone asked me in a voice that was incredibly calm. My fingers flew to the carotid artery and willed the blood to flow. “No”, my voice cracked, “No pulse”. The machines were going nuts, beeping incessently, and the family was crying just outside the room, but I didn’t hear any of it. It was like slow motion, as the Doctor’s voice said to me again, “Okay, keep doing compressions!” You’d better believe I did compressions. My whole being did those thrusts on her chest. All I remember about that night is how desperately I wanted that woman’s vital signs back.

It was that woman’s vial signs that propelled me beyond what career I had as a nurse, and brought me to a place with a lot of unanswered questions. I could do CPR with gusto, but could I tell you why I was here?

Vital signs, themselves are fairly easy to understand. Our friend Marriam-Webster defines them as “signs of life”. Your “signs of life” include your pulse, your temperature, your respirations, and your blood pressure, and there are ranges of numbers for each of these to stay normal. Vital signs are a basic, universal skill for every nurse, and when a patient loses their signs of life, it is called a “Code Blue”. Let me tell you, this particular Code Blue changed the way that I saw life and death. We lost her that night, but not without a fight.

I am here to talk about that fight. On the surface, it is a fight for life, even basic signs of life, but at its deepest core, what we are really asking is “is there hope for you?” I am here because every time you take someone’s vital signs, whether you realize it or not, you are asking the same question, and so is your patient — is there hope? I am here because, yes, there IS hope. If you are ever my patient, I promise that I will not just be looking for your signs of life, I will be here to remind you that there is hope — hope for you, hope because of you, and hope with you.

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