Angels Among Us

My body was starting to wake up from the anesthesia. It didn’t take but a second to realize something was different from previous surgeries. I looked up quickly to notice a new nurse on the right side of my bed. My eyes became huge with panic as I realized the breathing tube from my recent emergency surgery had not been removed.

Two weeks prior I had my kidneys removed. Now my body underwent emergency surgery for a bleeding vessel in my stomach and four bleeding ulcers. My body was too weak to breathe on its own. My doctors planned to leave the breathing tube in until they felt comfortable that I had enough strength to breathe normally. My jaw was pushed wide open from the tube. I could not swallow. I could not talk. My throat was sore and if I tried to fight it, I would be in more pain.

I was frightened like never before. My new ICU nurse, Robin, explained what was going on and tried to calm my nerves. As she held my hand, my shallow breaths started to have a normal rhythm. Her voice was so sweet, soft, and caring. She was a beautiful woman with red hair and blue eyes. I locked eyes with hers to gain the strength I needed to get through these trying hours. She told me that we would get through this together. Robin was a woman of her word.

A breathing specialist came into my room to perform some tests to see if they could remove the breathing tube. After the first test, they felt I wasn’t ready. I was discouraged but determined to breathe on my own.

I laid there for 16 hours with that breathing tube down my throat. Robin rarely left my side. I couldn’t speak to her, but was hopeful that she could feel how much I appreciated her support. She had an angelic aura, and such a warm, motherly presence.

Finally, my body was strong enough and it was time to be set free. They asked if I was ready. I was exhausted but oh-so ready. I will never forget that feeling when they pulled the breathing tube out. I swallowed and was in such pain, but so relieved. I looked up at Robin and smiled. We got through this together. It was like she was an angel that appeared on the scene to get me through this difficult time. A woman I never saw before, nor could talk to, gave me the strength I needed.

Brings tears to my eyes thinking of the moment that I could finally speak to Robin. She said she was waiting all night to hear my voice. She said I sounded like an angel.

I learned a lot during those long 16 hours, such as: Our bodies are so strong. The important role nurses play in our care. There is a fighter in all of us. People appear in our lives at just the right time. I do believe there are angels among us.


  1. Teresa Dixon

    Valen, I too had an amazing nurse right beside me post liver transplant. I had run a little family daycare before becoming sick and by the Grace of God, Tracy Ybarra was working in the transplant ICU when my call came…she happened to be a mother of a child I had taken care of in my home a few years prior. Without hesitating, she stayed over a second full shift and not only supported me thru that scarey vent stage, but took charge of my husband…giving him small tasks to busy him at my bedside as the shock of seeing me like that was quite overwhelming to him. She was also there to suppport my 2 sons…ages 18 and 23. She stayed and I will forever think of her as my own special guardian angel…firm yet loving and patient…so very blessed by even the hardest parts!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Teresa,
      What a beautiful story which exemplifies that we meet people in life and have no idea the impact they may have on us in the future. So thankful that you crossed paths with Tracy and years later she was your special angel in your time of need.

  2. Victoria

    Hi Valen,

    Oh what we would do without these special angels? Nurses were some of the most important people on my transplant team saving me from overeager interns, helping me figure out pros and cons of a specific option, willing to walk the walk with me in a way others could not. Just love ’em! Am enjoying your blog. Keep writing!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Victoria,
      Makes me so happy to know that you too were surrounded by amazing nurses that provided you with the support that you needed. So glad to hear that you are enjoying my blog and thank you for the encouragement to keep writing.


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