Quote from mjlrn97
From the earliest days of nursing school, when we were taught never to become "too involved" with our patients, we nurses find ourselves balancing precariously on the gossamer thread that separates caring for people and caring about them. Being only human, of course, we sometimes cross the line despite our best efforts........and the nurse whose restless dreams are unpopulated by the ghosts of past patients must surely be a rare bird indeed.
I'll never forget:
.........The 29-year-old mother of four who was dying of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer! How many such ailments are both so easily cured, and so tragic when not caught in time? I cared for her during only a single shift, but something still haunts me about the way her mother sat for hours smoothing her long black hair across the pillow, and the quiet dignity that never allowed one word of complaint, even as the bitter pain of the disease and the heartache of her husband's deportation to Mexico at a time when she needed him most gnawed at her.
Meanwhile, the children played quietly about the room as I performed the tasks which must be done; they seemed to know, somehow, that this was a solemn time, and yet they were polite and curious about what I was doing for their mother. I heard a few days later that she had passed on only a few hours after my shift ended; and my heart cried out angrily for an explanation which has never materialized, even to this day. I think maybe I am not meant to know......only to accept.
...........The elderly but still vibrant gentleman who had just been diagnosed with Stage III esophageal cancer and given an estimated six months to live. On the second evening after his diagnosis, he asked my advice on chemotherapy, radiation, and other matters; his mood was genial, and he seemed satisfied after I had presented him with several different options. At that point, he called his family together in his hospital room and talked with them for over two hours, after which discussion he put on his call light and asked me to walk with him around the floor for a short time. This I did gladly, as he was a very pleasant man and I enjoyed talking with him. Then he stopped me short with this six-word sentence: "I'm going to end my life".
Of course, words of caution immediately sprang to mind---"You mustn't think like that", "Don't give up hope, there are still things they can do for you"---but died on my lips as I looked into his earnest eyes. This man meant what he said, and no psych consult, antidepressant drugs, or pleadings would stop him. I knew that as well as I knew my own name. Still, I begged him to reconsider, citing the devastation his suicide would surely wreak on his family and friends. Finally, he said, "All right, I'll think about it.........for your sake." I was so happy that he'd decided to hold off on harming himself, I hugged him right there in the hallway, and when I discharged him home the following evening, he reassured me that he would still 'think about it' before coming to any decision.
The next day---or so the local newspaper said---this dignified, self-determined man walked out into his garage and shot himself in the head. And I've never told anyone about the conversation we had that night in the hospital.........until now.
These are the patients who break my heart. Who is yours?
Oh Marla, these two stories remind me of two that touched mine. The first one was similar to your own. The woman was a young mom who went for a D and C. Somehow the job got botched up, and the husband was told that the staff in our facility would splint her already flexing wrists.
As she lay there, not knowing who cared for her, I thought about the young life that had been wasted by a wrong move.
She was so young, and still had a lot of life to live. After all, she had children who needed her. Or so I thought.
Day after day she lay, moving more and more into a fetal position, with us helpless to do anything about it except provide her daily care. She lived about three months before she died. It took a lot out of me to see a person so young die like that.
Your second story reminds me of a retired banker who got a job as a school bus driver. He was the driver, and my daughter was the aide on a bus of handicapped children. I rode on the bus when I went to visit my daughter.
He was a true gentleman, who warmed the bus up before my daughter arrived, and who always bought his little passengers a gift for their birthdays and for Christmas.
Then so unlike him, he was late for work one morning. His boss began to question what was wrong, and began to call his family, since there was no answer at his home.
The following day, on the front page of the newspaper was headlines that read Triple Murder Suicide
. As we read the article, we learned that his daughter had been contacted, and learned he had been diagnosed with cancer.
He and his wife had a son who they cared for with down syndrome and some other brain damage. Not knowing what would happen to them, he walked up behind his wife who was standing at the sink washing dishes and shot her in the back of the head with his hunting rifle. Then he went in his son's bedroom where he lay in his bed, and shot him in the head, finally, he took his own life the same way.