Wrinkles adorned his face in all the right places that a man aged to his 70's should have. He didn't smile now, but lines around his mouth were indicative that he laughed in life up until this moment. His eyes were a soft gray that I knew had many stories that I wished he could tell.
I was one in a crowded room of the receiving team of nurses that lifted this man: a father, a grandfather off the golden Stryker that carried him from this fateful father's day into the emergency room. He was still dressed to fit the occasion: a polo tee, khaki shorts, and some tennis shoes. I imagined the man to be throwing a football with his grandson, or watching sports with his son when his heart chose this day, of all days to strike.
I watched him, his chest moving up and down during half-hearted compressions that came second to a conversation about how the paramedic's wife was doing these days.
"Breathe," I ordered him, "not today, please not today. Your family, I know they need you." I saw my grandfather in him, I saw my aging father in him. I saw a family man and I just wanted him to turn from the light he was walking and hear me. If I want it bad enough, if I hurt for him hard enough, he will understand.
The room began to darken, and the corner I was in waiting for commands was closing in on me. I felt my arteries pulsating throughout my body. I wanted to cry, scream at everyone to just try harder.
I'm a nurse technician, always the one to call if you need your morning coffee or your patient needs an IV, foley, and transport. Yet during a code, I fall back to the corner, invisible.
I came out from where I was standing, insisted to relieve the nurse doing compressions. I pushed harder, faster with everything that was in me. I denied relief from others, I felt again that if I put everything I had into him, he'd regain a pulse and wake. We'd be taking him to ICU where he'd recover and go home.
It never happened. He was there lifeless as the attending called it. I waited with two other nurses as they attempted an asystole strip. Every time a beat would appear just as they were printing. I know it was the meds, but I still could not give up the idea that he would show me a miracle.
I have seen life taken away, and life given. I have seen those live that defeated the odds. But at this moment, the miracles and the inspiration that I've experienced in clinicals and on-the-job seemed to fade away. I fought everything I had for this man. So, there is the glorified version of the nurse, "we save lives." And I love that part of my job. But I'm still learning how to accept the lives we can't save.
We as nurses are not mechanical machines that can turn the world off its axis. We can treat the patient as they are, a husband or father, but not change their fate. I just hope that this experience, watching a room of distracted individuals treat this patient that could have been my own grandfather will keep my path unchanged by what else is going on in the world. Nothing matters but the patient, and we need to remind ourselves, whether seasoned or new nurses.
About shannonFNP, MSN, NP
Joined: Nov '06; Posts: 264; Likes: 129
Family Nurse Practitioner; from US
Specialty: Pain Management, RN experience was in ERJun 22, '08These are the hardest lessons. Sometimes you feel that you're throwing everything you have into it, all your knowledge, physical strengh and sheer will and it just doesn't happen.
Don't let it make you forget how many Dads, Grandpa's etc we do save.Jul 20, '08Just like Chaya said, we save many people every year, and yes, we do have to lose a few. its kind of just a matter of fate. You never want to give up another life, but their legacy will continue through stories they may have not told that get passed down by family. This is always a difficult time, but can be literally a matter of life or death. keep those hopes high!