Janet Graham

Janet Graham

Janet Graham, RN

MICU/CCU
VA North Texas Health Care System
Dallas, Texas
United States

Janet Graham. It is not a name so much as it is an institution in the MICU/CCU. Chances are if a Veteran or a Veteran’s family member has visited either one of these units in the past 25+ years, they will have their own special memory of Janet.
Janet has nurtured inexperienced interns and watched them grow into knowledgeable attending physicians. When they visit, they often remark, “Janet, are you still here?” She smiles and says. “Yes, I’m still here, but I’ve been reading some self help books about how to leave ICU.” Then she laughs.
The sound of Janet’s laughter is the only sound more prevalent than the constant drone of the Drager monitors or ventilator alarms or chiming feeding pumps. Janet’s laughter resounds in the halls of this hospital and leaves everyone a little better for having heard it. Because once you’ve heard her laughter, she has taken the time to engage you in conversation. She’s asked how you are. If you are visiting, she has asked about the state of your loved one. And if you are lucky or blessed enough for you or your loved one to be in her care, you are going to get 110% of her skill, kindness, care and compassion while she is here. On her lunch break, she is going to go to the store and get you something you’ve desperately needed and never even told her, but she knew. She’s going to comfort you, eliciting a smile in the most unlikely of circumstances. Then when the moment comes when medicine can no longer stave off death, she is going to cry with you and hold your hand.
At that moment, you know that someone that truly cares about you is at your side supporting you through one of the most difficult decisions of your life.
Life in the ICU is stressful and hectic, but it is never so hectic that Janet doesn’t have time to give you the emotional support you need, when you need it.
As a new nurse, I watched Janet deal with an angry patient leaving against medical advice, she was talking to the patient about what he needs to do if he became ill again. The patient was verbally abusive, his face twisted with resentment and he stormed out of the unit. Janet raced after him yelling down the hall, “Sir, please wait. I didn’t give you your flu shot!”
She returned 15 minutes later. She was smiling. I asked her what happened. Her eyes twinkled a little, “I caught him right before he got in the DAART line.” I asked her why. “Because it is almost winter time. He needed that flu shot.”
I’ve been a nurse for six years now and have often remarked to my co-workers that when I am at a loss for words or do not know what to do, I just think of what Janet would do.
I’ll never be as clever or witty as her in these circumstances. She is a force of nature, a blessing, a gift and this facility and its patients have been her most fortunate recipients for over thirty years.
She is not slowing down and since my father is a veteran, I hope she has thirty more years of laughter, love and service to give.