Just Another Code
A code is called…it’s the woman in room 11.
Earlier, the paramedics found her--deep in the winter of her life--lying like a rag doll in a man’s lap. Shocks and drugs refocused her heart’s energy. She is whisked to the emergency room and then transferred intensive care.
Now, the team of nurses and doctors stream in, prepared to wage war against the various demons of fate, or to some, the will of G-d.
“Who is she,” asks a physician.
But, “who” the woman is--her goodness, her humanity--concerns no one but the angels.
The coat she once placed over a homeless man, that cold February eve so many years ago, placed no reciprocal burden upon the universe. And the love she so graciously offered others is not the currency against which time can now be redeemed.
No, the physician seeks only histories and co-morbidities, accidents and nature’s anomalies. Now, only the cold mechanics-of-things is honored. Only algorithms and the precision of commands.
In the waiting sits a man. He closes his eyes and slips into his favorite chair. He drifts off to the sounds of a woman preparing a meal. The aroma of memories revives her smile and the deep-blue mysteries within her eyes. Fifty years of embraces and shared secrets. Fifty years discovering the essence of life, the possibility of tethered hearts.
An overhead page barks out bleeding his memory.
We see and touch the woman, but she is not there. She is off dressing dolls and chasing first snowflakes. Off molding perfect sand feet on the beach with her lover. Off kissing the scented foreheads of sleeping babies.
Drugs are pushed, lines are placed, and the room bulges with personnel eager for the “drama” of their calling. Compressions convulse the woman’s body and fluids stream into translucent veins. But she is no more alive than the silver locket that drapes her pallid neck.
Family members discuss miracles. They invoke the name of a compassionate G-d and speak of prayer and grand designs. The room echoes with enough distilled optimism to change the course of a river.
But, at 25 minutes, the physician calls the code. Hands are stilled and suddenly there is silence. We quickly glance and nod at each other. So many years and still unable to capture the last vapors of life as they float from the room.
The nurse enters the waiting room and goes to the man. He searches her face for possibilities finding only despair.
He cries out to some divine power to rewind a life. The family embraces the man with love made complete by the man and the woman.
We clean and restore modesty to the woman’s body. When the family steps in we close the heavy glass door but the rise and fall of sobbing seeps into the interior of the unit.
Soon, the floor will gleam, the sheets will be changed, and fresh tubing will be coiled
around suction canisters.
And the woman will be dancing in a man’s dream.Last edit by brian on Apr 24, '08
interleukin has '14' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Mixed Level-1 ICU'. From 'Northampton, Massachusetts'; Joined Jan '07; Posts: 404; Likes: 1,978.Apr 24, '08interleukin, kudos again on another brilliant article!
You are such a talented writer, your nursing stories are amazing. Your articles absorb the reader and make you feel like you are right there. I know, everytime I read your articles, it takes me back to a place in time with the many memories I have had with my patients.Apr 25, '08Dear Brian,
I write from the heart and try to transform events which we often --after many years--tend to increasingly treat as mechanical or routine.
Because we are under increasing pressure to accomplish more and more in the same period of time, I think many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to still be the "good nurse."
But, as long as I am wearing , I owe it to my patients to imagine and focus on those things that make them uniquely human.Apr 27, '08truly beautiful yet dignified, not maudlin....dankeschoenLast edit by brian on Apr 27, '08 : Reason: just removed quote of entire article.Apr 27, '08This was a very emotional story to me as I just nearly died last October with pneumonia and was on a vent for 9 days. I saw and heard the angels, saw the bright tunnel. My husband didn't leave my side, our love has grown so much since that time and each day since is a gift and I know that. Thank-you, this is a great story.Last edit by brian on Apr 27, '08 : Reason: just removed quote of entire article.Jun 16, '08Such powerful use of language is indeed a gift. The images you evoked are crystal clear, no imagination needed. The day we forget that the patient is somebody's love is the day we should leave this job to those who haven't.Jun 17, '08Your words are incredibly poetic, and in a matter of seconds, I am transformed to a place I have yet to visit.
Your words set a scene that is remarkably vivid. You have a gift. Your writing is superb.
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