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Senior Fellow, May May Leung, PhD, RD, is an assistant professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. Her research expertise includes the development and evaluation of innovative health communication and community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity.

As you probably have heard by now, in May the mayor of New York City proposed a policy that would prohibit the selling of most sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in certain foodservice establishments.  These establishments include delis, restaurants and even sports arenas and movie theaters.   The ban wouldn’t extend to grocery stores, convenience stores or vending machines, but carts on sidewalks and in Central Park would also be affected.

There is plenty of evidence that shows the consumption of sugary drinks and larger portion sizes are associated with the obesity epidemic.  However, there’s been much debate as to whether such a policy would actually be an effective way to address this epidemic, which affects over half of New Yorkers.

The author of this guest post, Mauricio Berrio Orozco, RN, is a graduate student at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing. Last spring he attended a writing course for graduate nursing students co-taught by Jim Stubenrauch and Joy Jacobson, CHMP senior fellows. Click here for a post about a previous semester’s class.

As a nurse, I have experienced plenty of difficult situations that patients and their families go through during hospitalization. But nothing can compare to the suffering that results from prolonged mechanical ventilation, the long-term placement of a breathing tube that’s needed as a result of conditions such as anoxic brain injury or massive stroke.

By Hfastedge from Wikimedia Commons

Most of my patients are elderly. Many of them are conscious, but a good prognosis is basically impossible. They do not have even the slightest chance of recovering their previous level of functioning. Instead of getting better or at least being stable (normal vital signs, no signs of cardiac or respiratory distress), they develop problems related to mechanical ventilation. For instance, their muscles atrophy from inactivity, which then progresses to severe muscular and joint contractures. In addition, huge pressure ulcers can develop, as can ventilator-associated pneumonia, rapidly making the situation worse. No matter how excellent the care these patients get, their quality of life will only worsen if such complications are present.

The following guest post is by Patricia Wagner Dodson, a fiction writer and research nurse at Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. She recently attended Telling Stories, Discovering Voice: A Writing Weekend for Nurses, led by Jim Stubenrauch and Joy Jacobson and co-sponsored by the CHMP and Hunter–Bellevue School of Nursing. Pat blogs at StoryStreams: fiction as comfort.

"Storyteller Under Sunny Skies," a clay sculpture in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Storyteller Under Sunny Skies, Rose Pecos-Sun Rhodes, Jemez Pueblo, NM

I’m a nurse, I might say.

But I don’t say it. I qualify it. I spin it. I elaborate on it. I never just say it.

I’ve often wondered why.

I used to think it might be because it sounds so ordinary. I imagine that the person I am speaking to might conjure up an image of a woman in white going from room to room, dispensing medications, holding the hands of the dying, recording the responses to treatment, changing IV fluids. I did that for six months when I graduated from nursing school. I was exhausted and miserable, and it nearly sent me back to my old job, the job I had before I became a nurse.

Jim Stubenrauch is a CHMP senior fellow.

Photo by Amy Dixon

What I’m feeling right now in my body is a sense of comfort and familiarity, even though there are a few aches and pains. I’m an old blue work shirt hung across the back of a chair, and that’s fine for now. The breathing exercise we just did gives me a feeling of warmth and pleasure that flows down my arms and
legs. . . .

That’s what I was writing on a Friday morning two weeks ago, to a prompt from CHMP poet-in-residence Joy Jacobson, at the start of “Telling Stories, Discovering Voice: A Writing Weekend for Nurses,” a three-day writing intensive cosponsored by the CHMP and the Hunter–Bellevue School of Nursing. Joy and I led the workshop—the first of many, we hope—and joined in the writing exercises. I’m still processing what turned out to be an incredibly rich experience.

We had a small but surprisingly diverse group of nurses, nine in all (a good size: large enough to make for lively discussion, small enough to preserve intimacy). Some were beginning writers; others, more experienced. We spent the weekend writing, reading, and sharing stories.