I was your nurse today

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    I was the primary nurse for a friend's husband who ended up coding in the Emergency Department. This is a letter to Zak. It is one way I am coping after this loss.

    I was your nurse today

    Zak
    I was your nurse today

    From the second they brought you back from the waiting room I knew you were in trouble. Your face was blue and dusky. Your body was mottled. Your breathing was shallow and raspy. Your words were unintelligible. It was hard to get access because your body was cold and clamping down.

    There were many people in your room. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics, social workers, your family. I talked to your wife and told her we had to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. I told her we were giving you antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and more fluid. She told me to save you. Your wife is a friend of mine, of the entire department.

    When your heart stopped beating we put pads on you and started pushing on your chest. We shocked you twice. We called more doctors. We gave you more medications. We put a bigger tube in your right groin. We brought your wife to the head of your bed.

    We kept pushing on your heart. I jumped up and started pushing, wanting to believe that I could make a difference, that I could jump start your heart again. We called more doctors. We grabbed more people, more equipment, more medications. We kept working. We didn’t want to stop, we were never going to stop.

    I wonder if you heard your wife say to you “you can’t leave me, don’t leave me”. I wonder if you heard her begging us to save you and felt us work harder and harder. I wonder if you knew how much your wife and mom and dad and sister loved you. I wonder if you heard their words and felt their love.

    I was still your nurse when your wife told us to stop after 40 minutes of coding. Everyone left the room except your family. I brought chairs in and my heart broke while I listened to your wife tell you she will always love you and your children that you never got to have. I walked out of the ED and yelled because I couldn’t believe someone so young and healthy could deteriorate so quickly. I thought about my brother who nearly died in a motorcycle crash.

    I was your nurse today. I couldn’t bring myself to look at your wife’s face when I had to go into your room to draw more blood cultures. She was sprawled over your body making a chilling cry I’ll never forget. I stepped out and saw my hardened ER family of co-workers who’ve seen it all hugging each other and crying. I had to comfort the ED attending who just arrived for a night shift to discover the patient he sent home yesterday had returned today and died.

    I was your nurse today. I helped steady your wife’s hand while she signed for the autopsy report. I asked if she wanted me to remove your 2 year and three month wedding ring off your cold lifeless fingers. She wanted to do it.

    I listened to the cries of your family. My co-workers complimented me on my good work when deep inside I felt like all I did was watch a healthy man die before my eyes. I re-lived the entire course of events numerous times because the person charting didn’t do a great job.

    I was your nurse today. I’m sorry we couldn’t save you. Your face is etched into my memories. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I wish I knew you before. It’s clear you were well liked and loved.

    I was your nurse today.
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    About stephen1219

    I'm an ER nurse in wisconsin.

    Joined Mar '13; Posts: 11; Likes: 59.

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    19 Comments

  3. by   djh123
    Wow. I'm so sorry for all concerned. I don't know what happened, but it sounds like you and everyone involved did everything they could.
  4. by   Fefee
    I was once told by a nursing instructor that no matter how hardened you are by nursing, when you lose empathy, it's time to quit. At some point in our career, a lot of us have been or will be that nurse. You never forget moments like these. Thank you so much for sharing.
  5. by   meonemine
    I enjoyed your story so much compassion may the good Lord keep blessing you
  6. by   pattilb
    Such a sad and compassionate story. Much harder when a friend is involved. Nursing is an emotional and not just a physical job. You gotta be a special person to do this job. ��
    Last edit by pattilb on Mar 15 : Reason: Missing words
  7. by   cheryl whatley
    This so touching and a remembrance of situations we have all faced in our profession. It is a way of reminding us who we are and why we do what we do everyday. It also tells the public that we are the pillars supporting the team which keeps the heart of healthcare beating until we can do no more.

    Cheryl Whatley RN
  8. by   Libby1987
    Thank you for your heartfelt courageous work through the worst kind of tragedy and sending cyber hugs.
  9. by   justavolunteer
    I am 'justavolunteer' on a patient unit. I have been around when patients have passed away. I see the obvious grief not only with the families, but also how a death affects the patient's nurse. Nurses are generally caring people who don't like to lose a patient. To the author: you sound like a very caring nurse. I would be glad to have someone like you taking care of me. I hope that when bad things happen, you are able, in your own way, to find relief from the stress and pain of it all.
  10. by   maporcrn1
    I feel your pain. Nurses working in the ED or ICU are sometimes faced with caring for friends. I know that you and the other professional staff would have gone through the same standards and length to save any young man. The fact that it was a friend just makes it worse. Sorry for your loss. As a former ICU nurse, I have been with patients who I did not think should die and died anyway. I also did not think other patients would live and they lived! I feel that you give your best to all patients in your care. Thank you for all you do.
  11. by   EllaBella1
    At risk of seeming insensitive, why were blood cultures being drawn on someone post time of death? Just curious. Otherwise this is a touching tribute. <3
  12. by   maporcrn1
    Just because, they need more information. Perhaps, the results may be helpful to other patients in the future. Sepsis kills many patients.
  13. by   agiboma
    wow as an ER nurse its something we see daily unfortunately, your story was very touching and my condolences.
  14. by   NutmeggeRN
    My heart hurts for you. There is more I could say but I cant.

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