Close to breaking... seriously.

  1. I've been working SICU (with the exception of a short-lived foray into Case Management a few months ago - HATED it) for about 14 years now. I've seen some really tragic things in my time and somehow I've always been able to mostly leave it at work.

    These last two days have been very hard for me, and I cried into my chips and guacamole after work this evening, IN PUBLIC, while my poor non-medical husband struggled to understand.

    In brief:

    Yesterday I had a 41 year old woman on an LVAD (been in our unit for 49 days) whose family withdrew care. It literally made me sick to my stomach to watch that little old couple sign papers so that we could let their daughter die... and in the three hours it took her to do that... OMG... they were just so pathetic... they sat next to each other and held hands, and the dad was so stoic, and the mom just cried and cried...

    Today I had a 25 year old MVA with SEVERE head trauma, multiple fractures, chest tubes, etc, who will more than likely wind up being an organ donor in a few days at most (if the family consents; they're still in that initial stage of total shock and "he's gonna pull through") and I watched his mother on her knees most of the day praying and crying for a miracle... and she clung to me when I left this evening... just sobbed on my shoulder. I walked out with her tears wetting my jacket.

    I am really REALLY beginning to feel the cumulative weight of what I do for a living... and I just don't know how much more I can handle. :uhoh21:

    Thanks for reading.
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  2. 34 Comments

  3. by   Feathers
    *hugs*

    I'm not even a student yet, so I have no words of wisdom. Just wanted to show some support.
  4. by   woody62
    Quote from SICU Queen
    I've been working SICU (with the exception of a short-lived foray into Case Management a few months ago - HATED it) for about 14 years now. I've seen some really tragic things in my time and somehow I've always been able to mostly leave it at work.

    These last two days have been very hard for me, and I cried into my chips and guacamole after work this evening, IN PUBLIC, while my poor non-medical husband struggled to understand.

    In brief:

    Yesterday I had a 41 year old woman on an LVAD (been in our unit for 49 days) whose family withdrew care. It literally made me sick to my stomach to watch that little old couple sign papers so that we could let their daughter die... and in the three hours it took her to do that... OMG... they were just so pathetic... they sat next to each other and held hands, and the dad was so stoic, and the mom just cried and cried...

    Today I had a 25 year old MVA with SEVERE head trauma, multiple fractures, chest tubes, etc, who will more than likely wind up being an organ donor in a few days at most (if the family consents; they're still in that initial stage of total shock and "he's gonna pull through") and I watched his mother on her knees most of the day praying and crying for a miracle... and she clung to me when I left this evening... just sobbed on my shoulder. I walked out with her tears wetting my jacket.

    I am really REALLY beginning to feel the cumulative weight of what I do for a living... and I just don't know how much more I can handle. :uhoh21:

    Thanks for reading.
    If you have health insurance, consider seeing a psychologist. Sometimes a few sessions are all we need to resolve our feelings about not being able to help those entrusted to our care.

    Good luck

    Woody
  5. by   Carmino
    My support goes out to you as well. Have you though about some counseling? Maybe you should consider some time away from work? Otherwise maybe you should consider a less stressful position? Just a student so im not sure how everything works but its my 2 cents.
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
    Please see if your hospital has an EAP (employee assistance program). Seeing a counselor is free of charge and completely confidential, and you may be able to get as many as six visits. I don't know what I'd have done if I hadn't had such a program available to me when I was on the edge of losing it a couple of years ago; all I know is, I got a lot done in only five sessions, and it helped me recover my sense of purpose in staying in this profession.

    In the meantime, (((((((((((((HUGS)))))))))))) to you. I'm so sorry you are going through this. Just try to remember that if you ever reach a point where senseless deaths and destruction of lives DON'T get to you, it's time to hang up your steth and leave nursing for good. It's because you are a compassionate and caring nurse that all this hurts so much. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.
  7. by   FireStarterRN
    Either you need to become more detached or you need to look for work in a more hopeful and less tragic unit.
  8. by   deeDawntee
    How unbelievably tragic and something profoundly brutal to have to witness. I am so sorry that you have had to deal with 2 of those unexplainable situations at one time. My heart goes out to you because unless you are there and seeing these events happen, it is easy to be rational about it, but the heart wrenching, emotional and spiritual draining nature of those experiences are very real to you.

    It is all beyond our understanding. I don't know what to tell you to comfort you, except that to continue to do what you are doing, talk about it and feel those feelings. Get angry if you need to. I believe that is the only way to get through it. A professional may be able to give you another outlet. It is worth checking out.

    Thank you so much for the work you are doing. Fourteen years of those experiences and you still care shows how compassionate you are. I think you are a remarkable human being and I hope you can get through this because, heaven knows we need incredible nurses like you in the world.

    :icon_hug:
  9. by   canoehead
    I second the idea of employee assistance. Sometimes it all becomes too heavy to carry, and you deserve someone to to care for YOU.
  10. by   Armygirl7
    Wow. You brave, brave, brave woman!!

    First of all - no doubt you are bearing a heavy load of care. These two patients and their families needed you to carry some of this burden - it is just too heavy for them. This doesn't mean it will be easy for you. But you are sharing the burden with them. And I don't even know you but if I was near you now I would just look you right in the eye and salute you and tell you how much I admire and am in awe of your ability to EVEN STAND UP with this kind of weight. And then I would let you unload some of it on me - hopefully you have friends, pets, plants, higher powers, All Nurses, even confused hubby, whatever it takes - to symbolically hand off some of this load!

    Please please don't be hard on yourself! Hot lavender bath & a vacation stat. Would that we could understand the reasons for suffering in this world!!!

    A great poem that hospice uses has always comforted me when I am dealing with senseless death:

    I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
    spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
    for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
    I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
    of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

    Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

    Gone where?

    Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
    hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
    And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

    Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
    And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
    there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
    ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

    And that is dying...


    You question your profession because you have the control and power to answer that question - and not the ability to answer the "why" of these tragedies. Just take it easy on yourself for a while. Don't break!!!
    I think also the fact that this woman was your age may also have caused this to hit you very hard.
    I wish you peace and strength and courage.
  11. by   Captain Tripps
    I was where you are after too many years as a Paramedic. You could potentially be in a very dangerous place for yourself, I know I was. What I did is take some time away from the streets, I took a lab position and it helped me regain my life. I am now back on the streets and going to Nursing school.
    I agree with using your EAP, and maybe think about transferring to another unit. Please feel free to E-mail if you would like to talk.

    Peace,
    Tripps
  12. by   It's Alisa
    icon_hug:
  13. by   HM2VikingRN
    I witnessed a girl come in from a trauma about a month ago. She was DOA. It was my first code. As a student I was devastated to be involved. I asked for debriefing and it really helped me to put the experience into perspective and achieved some healing. I think that we need to know as caregivers when to ask for help. Please ask for help so you can take care of yourself.
  14. by   leslymill
    You helped them mourn so much that now your in mourning yourself.
    Mourning takes a few phases to get over.
    Don't worry unless it effects your work. Then you need a vacation.
    God considers mourning a blessing even though we feel like it is ripping our health apart.
    I wish we could all stay unattached all the time.

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