ICU - not for the faint of heart
"You were our angel last night" - words from an incredible family. We often meet incredible people, and often are in situations that at the time seem difficult, but afterwards are the most rewarding moments of your life. Welcome to one of mine.
I am just trying to hold myself together, often I am in pieces, and I feel like I am scrambling to keep everything in one piece. Is this what life is like? That was a question I asked myself last Thursday night, it was the second night that I had this patient, and his family was amazing.
Often times it’s the good ones. Of course it’s the good ones that always lose the ones they love the most, and it seems like ones that are terrible nasty and mean stick around forever.
You think that in two nights you wouldn’t get to understand and know another human being, but you would be wrong. In my position as a nurse we really get to know people, possibly it is because it is when we meet people, in their most vulnerable moments.
In the middle of my week I admitted a patient who had had a cardiac arrest, he was being flown in, as I’ve mentioned before we get patients from all around the state, the sickest of the sick. I get report from the nurse from where he’s coming, and I knew this was going to be a bad one. What I did not apprehend is how incredible his family was.
When I left that next morning, he was on a couple medications to keep his blood pressure up….but no big deal often times people are on that unit, when I came back the next night he was on three blood-pressure medications, and he was not able to keep his pressures up, and I knew it was over. It was only just a matter of time, now my job was to support the family. They were such a great family, I knew that they would not hesitate to make him a DNR if they had known that there was no hope, and in his case there was no hope.
Why as the human population, do we continuously try to expand the lives of the people we love to the very end of time, even if it is not possible? We beat ourselves up for these people that die, when in reality we do not know if they really do die? Their souls can continue to live on, but we are so scared of death that we cling to them, even if they’re willing to go. We will save that topic for another day, I have plenty of stories.
Well his family was not like that, they were willing to let their loved one go, knowing there was no hope, but they were going to be there and love him until the very end which was soon to come. Throughout the shift as I got to know the family, I learned this hopes, his dreams, how many kids he had, what he did for a living, what he wanted to do with life, where he was coming from and why he was here. I learned his family’s hopes and dreams, the ages of the children, his siblings, how his parents passed, anything else you can think of that you want to know about a human.
Throughout the night the daughter, the son, the sister, and the ex-wife, never left the bedside. I have an odd name, but they sure did remember it from the night before when I admitted him, I felt so grateful that they would actually remember my odd name in their time of chaos and dismay.
As his blood pressure started to trend downward, I knew it wouldn’t be much longer, but the thing about that is, we never quite know when they’re actually going to go. He had a son who lives in LA, who was attempting to get there, and you never know if that’s what they’re waiting for. Well he lasted my entire shift, and passed right before shift change, and an hour before his son was about to land.
People choose when they want to die, he chose that he had wanted to die and hour before his son had got there, we will never know why.
At one point in the night the daughter had continuously tried to be closer to him, I grabbed another coworker of mine who helped me scoot him over on the bed, and told her that she could lay next to him if she would like, she was so happy with tears in her eyes, knowing her father would soon pass. Thankfully he had just walked her down the aisle a month sooner, she had placed little crystals on his chest, I asked her what they were for? She said; “to keep him grounded, keep him with us.” She was beautiful, there was tears in my eyes I had tried to hide, and I smiled; he will always be with you - I didn’t say it, but thought it. She did not leave the bed again, until I was long gone and he was long passed.
I will never forget that morning, I had given report to the nurse that had had him the day before, suddenly his heart had gone into a rhythm that was lethal, I notified the family and told them that it was only a matter of time now, he was no longer perfusing. They all stood around him, crying, and letting him know it was ok to go, and he was loved. I stood in the back, there for support, if they had needed me, or any other questions they needed answered. Before I left, and after he had passed I hugged them, and cried. They told me, which is a moment I will never forget; “you were our angel last night” ….their angel, wow…As she hugged me with tears streaming down her cheeks, and thanked me for everything.
The one thing I’ve realized about this job is how much love their is in the world, and how people can always be thankful for anything you do, even if they’re in the worst circumstance. I guess I never really realized that, I was just doing my job, but my job isn’t normal…my job entails being there for people in their most raw and vulnerable state, people are so humbling.
I left that day in tears, crying for this amazing family. I also realized how incredibly grateful I was for being able to be in their lives for that moment, for the moments when they needed someone the most, I was thankful it was me.
I am grateful I met you, even in these circumstances, thankful for you, for changing my life, I will never forget these times, even if I don’t do this job forever, so much will never be forgotten.
An ICU nurse in a very large hospital that treats the sickest patients in our state and the surrounding area, one of my stories.
Joined Oct '16; Posts: 6; Likes: 46.