Diana Johnson, BSN, RN
“This is my favorite part of the day!”
I hear this line all the time, usually between 0800 and 0930 when the Detox Unit is seeing pregnant clients and checking fetal heart rates. They beam with excitement and I hold my breath as the light blue probe touches their tummy.
“This is my ninth, she’s in there somewhere, you can press harder, it won’t bother me none,”
“I’ve had three, this one is going to be a handful, I can tell already,”
“this is my fourth and hopefully my last”
“This is my first, I’m so **** scared.”
I don’t exhale until I hear a little heart beating and see variable numbers flashing on the Doppler screen. 141, 143, 150, 146. “Looks perfect!” I breathe again and smile reassuringly at mom.
Before I graduated nursing school I would daydream about different directions I would go with my career. I was certain I’d end up at a big hospital and I always imagined it being filled with noise. There would be doctors rushing around, nurses feverishly charting, IV pump alarms going off, and call lights illuminating the halls. I would imagine working late nights in the emergency room, or early mornings in surgery, or endless days on a med-surg floor. What I never imagined though, was having to scan my badge outside an unmarked door, entering a quiet, dimly lit, six-bed medically monitored detox unit tucked away inside the walls of The Next Door.
The Next Door has held a special place in my heart for fifteen months now. And not the kind of “special” where every day is amazing and nothing bad ever happens. As a nurse, that kind of special does not exist. Actually, I’m pretty sure in any profession, that does not exist. But it’s special in the way you get to see lives changing in front of you, knowing God’s hand is in all of it. You get to see the hard stuff. The stuff families keep quiet around company. You see pictures of children taped to keycards hanging around necks of the clients and you watch as tears well up in their eyes when they tell you they haven’t actually seen their babies in eight months. You overhear ultimatums given by spouses, parents, friends. You hear about upcoming court dates, nerves, DCS, lawyers, judges, which county has the nicest jails. It’s a safe place. A place where talking about “bottom” is embraced and not judged. There are cravings and crying, prayers and encouragement, coffee and cigarettes. It is one hour at a time and just for today. And somewhere along the way you see strength and courage where you once saw fear. You watch the woman who called you every name in the book (and some you’ve never even heard of) two weeks ago pull up a chair next to a new client who is wanting to leave treatment early and you listen as she tells her:
“I was where you are now two weeks ago”
“please give it a chance”
“staying saved my life.”
There are so many miracles. A few months ago I was able to be there at the hospital for the birth of a client’s son. I had been listening to his heartbeat with the Doppler for weeks and was overcome with joy to hold him in my arms. As I sat in that hospital room, I listened to the nurse ask mom her questions and watched her feverishly enter all the data into her computer, doctors and residents were conferencing in the hallways, the IV pump alarm went off and more nurses rushed in to silence it. And amidst all of the commotion, the people, the noise, I realized that I ended up where I was meant to be. Behind an unmarked door, in a medically monitored detox unit tucked away inside the walls of The Next Door. I hope very much that fifteen months is only the beginning of my journey with The Next Door and the incredible women who come through these doors every day.
Diana Johnson BSN, RN serves as a Registered Nurse in the Detox Unit for The Next Door.