I Should Be in Jail

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    As a pediatric nurse, you see a lot. Human nature at it’s rawest. Most caregivers are decent, but there are those that you encounter that just...just make you wonder why you are not in jail for slapping their face. I mean, some people...you just want to punch them in the face.

    I Should Be in Jail

    This article was written by a member of allnurses. Due to the delicate and emotionally charged nature of the article as well as details, the member wanted the topic posted anonymously. If other readers have articles they would like published anonymously, please contact me by private message.

    Let’s start out with my first encounter with a parent. I was a paramedic (a newbie..a rookie..an innocent.,,) called to a home of a 4 month old that rolled off of a couch. The baby is seizing and the father is talking about how he was making the baby a bottle. He was alone with the kid and the mom was at work. He claimed to put the baby on the couch and the baby rolled off the couch. A short couch...onto carpet. The story didn’t add up. The baby seized the entire 30 minutes it took us to get to the nearest hospital, and then later died from massive head trauma. Shaken baby syndrome. That was some fall.

    This was my induction into real life. I was out of my protective cocoon and my rose colored glasses cracked in the truth of real life. I have scraped children off of the highway who were unrestrained; I have whisked children out of homes that were besieged with fighting under the protection of cops; and I have taken children to the ED scared to be touched by anyone.

    The pressure of being a paramedic became too much, so I chose a new profession...pediatric nursing! (insert snarkiness here).

    I was working in the ED when a mom brought in her 13 year old. Both were afraid and the mom said the dad would be there soon. Mom did not have custody, and the dad was not happy the kid was in the ED. Dad, I am sure after meeting him, is in a gang. The cops were brought in, the mom asked to leave, the dad was cursing up a storm and I confronted him. “We will absolutely not tolerate that type of behavior in the hospital, in a CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL. If you don’t sit down and be quiet, you will be escorted out.” Nicer than a punch, and I kept my job.

    I myself was escorted by security to my car after work….fearing what may await me.

    A 15 year old on life support who OD’d to see if her mom loved her. She did not want to die, she wrote me in a note when she was intubated, she just wanted to see if her mom cared. The child took a turn for the worst with multi-system organ failure. As we strived to make her comfortable and keep her body in a hypothermic state, the mom was mad at ME because the room was too cold. She tried to fire me from being her daughters nurse. This after she so nonchalantly said, “pull the plug”. I stayed at the bedside and held her hand as she passed away, mom went to go eat.

    A 13 year old dying from HIV/AIDS. The dad wanting to be at her side, the step-mom wanting to go do stuff. The dad confided in me once, when he was irritated with his wife, that his daughter was never treated fairly by his wife. He wanted to bring his daughter home to hospice and wanted to redo her room - a makeover - just how she would have loved it. The wife would not hear of it, since the girl was ‘gonna die anyway’. And she did, in the hospital room with nursing staff at her side.

    The mother of an 18 month old who was beaten by the mom’s boyfriend. The grandmother had unofficial custody since the day the child was born. She had unofficial custody of 3 of the children because the mom was always partying and never had time for the kids. When the family decided to remove the child from life support after the baby was declared to have brain death, the mother banned the grandmother from the room. That was the only time I did not let a parent help me bathe a patient after the patient died….and I gave them a time limit for grieving as well. The fact that the mother was holding her dead child and talking about going to Chili’s and a movie later in the day sort of made up my mind, along with her acting like this was a party and yelling at her brother to “go get me a coke, hey, my baby just died and you need to be nice to me”, and “hey, you know that ************ was going to go get a new car today?” Absolutely no feeling at all about the loss of a child, but enough bitterness in her to block the one true person who cared for the baby from being at his side.

    The four year old who was NPO for surgery. As usual, the patient did not go to OR before lunch and she became fussy and..hungry...I walked past her room to hear her father yell at her to “Shut up!” as she was crying. I went in right away and she was reaching for his lunch. His McDonald’s fries and burger he was munching down on. I absolutely kicked him out of the room (sans roundhouse kick to the face).

    I know that people deal with grief in unusual ways. I have seen grief, I have seen the absolute absence of grief, and I have seen those who pretend to have grief. For me, the people who have not one ounce of compassion for the child who most needs their love are the ones who I cannot and will not ever understand. I know that people don’t think beyond their own needs, even when a child is crying and does not understand what is happening.

    But it doesn’t mean I agree with it, or have to like it.

    As a nurse, the hardest part of my job is to not say and do what I really think and feel. Or I would have been in jail a LONG time ago.

    What have you seen that makes you want to commit an assault?
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 16, '17
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    123 Comments

  3. by   annie.rn
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I would be very angry in these situations, too. I'm glad there are people out there like you. who can advocate for these kids.
  4. by   nutella
    Those are very sad stories - neglect and abuse is part of our professional life as nurses and other healthcare workers.
    It can be traumatizing to witness those incidents happen. Unfortunately, abuse, neglect or some other not humane behavior are not too uncommon.
    This is why I believe that nurses and other healthcare workers need to support each other, treat each other with kindness and create a safe place where we can talk about those things without being judged.
  5. by   Jensmom7
    I was a Peds nurse for 10 years. I know exactly what you're feeling.

    What have I seen that makes me want to commit an assault?

    A beautiful 3 year old girl with the back of her head missing because her bat-crap crazy father shot her as she was trying to run away from him.

    A 2 year old boy whose mother played Russian Roulette with his meds and miscalculated one time; he came in DOA, after being a frequent flyer because his mother craved attention from medical personnel. (We had brought up the possibility of Munchhausen's by Proxy months earlier with his Pediatrician, who laughed and told us to stop practicing medicine without a license.)

    There are more, and they are all depressingly the same. Yet, I wouldn't have traded those 10 years for anything, and those children's faces are as clear to me now as they were 25-30 years ago.

    Because there are other, happier endings. Children who do have loving, involved families. Families that you don't mind sending their children home with them.

    Anyone who would be snarky or less than understanding when you express your feelings is either a) not a nurse and shouldn't be saying anything anyway or b) not worth the paper their license is written on.
  6. by   meanmaryjean
    Wonderful article. I am in the throes of one of these 'situations' right now- and I want to hurt someone. I won't of course, but am hoping and praying I get called to court when they go on trial to tell the jury what I saw and heard.
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Goodness my heart goes out to all the peds nurses/doctors, EMTs, ER nurses, social workers, and others who have to see horror like this in their day. I could not do it, I know. My hat is off to all of you.
  8. by   CBlover
    I am a new parent. I have a little 10 week old baby boy. The stories you told and that I've heard similar just rack my mind. My baby got his first shots today. I almost burst into tears seeing those needles stuck in his little legs. How HOW can anyone not love a child??? It's beyond me.
  9. by   1_fit_male_nurse2b
    Thank you for sharing your stories.
    They scare me.
    I don't like to see the innocent hurt, especially kids, and the stupidity that hurt them.
    And I don't like butt holes.
    I have no ideal how I will deal with this kind of crap.
    I hope God gives me the courage to ALWAYS do the right thing while helping others, even if it means dying inside.
    Thank you again for sharing your strength
  10. by   Surprised1
    To the OP: huge hugs to you. I get you. I could have written this post, minus the paramedic past. I am a neuro step-down RN in a level one pediatric trauma center. I see the lowest of humanity. I don't feel comfortable mentioning any of the cases I've seen, since I've only been a nurse for 3 years and some of the cases might be recognized. Working on my unit has changed me in so many ways. Some days I feel like a misanthrope.
    Last edit by Surprised1 on Jan 8, '16 : Reason: clarification
  11. by   kalycat
    OP, I feel you. I have 20 years of experience working with families in crisis, handling psych/social issues, working with CPS, providing crisis respite for all types of scenarios. Nursing is my third career.

    I always thought I would be a Peds nurse, but after a couple of bad abuse cases, a terrible case that ended in organ recovery and a few other things, I went to adults as soon as I began working as a nurse.

    I have had fantasies about meeting some of these poor excuses for humanity in dark alleys - and not as the "victim". When those thoughts became persistent and my toxic turbo tongue misfired one too many times, I realized that I needed to move forward to a new patient population - start a truly new career.

    There's crazy everywhere (and some awful families) but it's different. I typically pride myself on withholding judgment, but I definitely hit my limit when children are involved. The lies, excuses, manipulation and tragedy jaded me in a way I could have never expected.

    I miss the kiddos, but have no doubts that I needed a break from the heartbreak. It's been nice to give my stoic face and behavior a rest. I needed it more than I knew. Sending you much cyber love and support. Thanks for staying on the front lines - there are many of us who simply cannot do what you do. Thanks for fighting the fight.
  12. by   MKChambers89
    My dream is to be a pediatric nurse. I adore children, I have 2 of my own, but it's after reading stories such as this I question whether or not it would be a good fit for me. I want to nuture, care for, protect, and advocate as much as I can for the babies of this world, but knowing sometimes you may have to discharge them to people who you fear may hurt them, or that maybe you couldn't save one, I don't know... I probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night. A friend of mind worked on a labor and delivery floor as a receptionist and told me of how some babies were born with addictions, and later died. Some were born with deformaties and as a result, their parent(s) did not want them. Others were left behind for whatever reason. My heart breaks hearing that. I guess one of the nurses went as far as adopting a couple babies. Made me wish I was in the position to do that. I applaud you. It sounds like a terribly difficult position, where you constantly have to wrestle with your role as a nurse and your own compassion and outrage at some of the horrible cases you come across. I hope to have the heart to do what you do one day. All the best.
    Last edit by MKChambers89 on Jan 8, '16
  13. by   amelajay
    I want to become a nurse so that I can be there for the worst of times to offer love and tangible help... And this helps, because the idealization quickly disperses. It's going to be hard work, indeed. God bless all who put their hearts out there for their patients.
  14. by   RNMom2010
    My heart hurts for these lil kiddos. I would lose my mind if I lost my one or both of my kids. To witness what the author has....I couldn't recover from that.

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