Transplant Thanksgiving

by canesdukegirl Guide

8,875 Views | 30 Comments

Thanksgiving took on a completely new meaning for me one year. The emotional roller coaster that I experienced within one shift was one of devastating grief, yet filled with the promise of new life. Tragedy can sometimes turn over a new leaf, like the falling leaves of November.

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    Transplant Thanksgiving

    Itís my turn to work this Thanksgiving. Although I am disappointed that I will not be having dinner with my husband, I knew that we would only be doing emergency cases in the OR.

    Expecting a relatively light working day, I swipe my badge and enter the locker room to change into scrubs.

    My trauma pager beeps almost as soon as I clip it onto the waistband of my scrubs.

    Reading the small screen of the pager, I decipher the code:

    ďRed tag 24yo m, GSW head, GCS 3, intubated, ETA 2 min air.Ē

    Quickly, I throw my lab coat around my shoulders, shouting instructions to staff to set up an OR for an emergency craniotomy. I rush down the hall to the ER. Halfway down the hall, my pager beeps again.
    ďBlack tag.Ē

    I retrace my steps and return to the OR.

    A 24 year old man shot himself in the head, his neurological responses all but absent. His wife was currently in conference with the trauma attending.

    Another page comes through from the trauma attending. I read the page and shake my head.

    With a heavy heart, I set up the OR to do the harvest. The doors of the OR open, a myriad of beeping monitors accompanying the patient into the room. Silently, I watch the anesthesiologist, the tech and the circulating nurse transfer the patient to the OR bed. While I prep the patientís abdomen with Betadine, I glance at his swaddled head, his face barely visible beneath layers of gauze.

    The surgeon and I step up to the OR table, and begin the meticulous task of recovering the liver, and both kidneys. The patientís lungs are covered with pebble sized black spots, evidence of his heavy smoking.

    Ten hours later, we complete the organ recovery. Sending the staff out of the room, I sit beside the OR bed and look at this young man, wondering what kind of tragedies he had experienced.

    Picking up his cold, lifeless hand, I close my eyes and say a prayer for him, hoping that his soul is at peace. Tears spring from my eyes, dripping onto his colorless hand. I worry about the young family he left behind. Rising from my sitting stool, I take my time as I gently clean blood and Betadine from his skin, using my shoulder sleeve to wipe away my tears.

    Composing myself, I walk out of the room and down the hall to the OR front desk. Stopping short, I see a soldier and his family in pre-op. Several soldiers in full uniform surround his bed, chattering happily, and laughing while ribbing each other with stories. The patient is smiling, holding his wifeís hand. Their eyes are bright with hope; this brave soldier will receive the liver that I just helped recover. Tears cloud my eyes again.

    One life ended. Another is beginning.

    Exhaust overwhelms me as I walk into the door of my house. My dear husband has dinner re-heated for me, but I am not hungry. He looks into my eyes and understands. Silently, my husband places a steaming mug of cocoa in my hand. He opens the patio door for me and kisses my forehead. I stand at the baluster outside on the deck, processing the emotional roller coaster I experienced today. The silence of the night cloaks me in a dark, comfortable embrace. As I wipe the tears from my face, I hear the helicopter buzz over my house carrying my patient's kidneys to a pediatric patient, and another to a solider at the nearest Army base. I smile through my tears, knowing that my efforts helped not one, but three families today.

    Thanksgiving has just taken on a completely new definition for me.

    I trudge up the stairs and pour myself into the bed. My sweet husband pulls the comforter around my shoulders as my puppy jumps up beside me and quickly makes herself into a tight circle against my abdomen. Gently, he brushes my long hair away and kisses my tear streaked face.

    "Thank you, sweetheart, for all that you did today. I love you," my husband whispers into my ear.
    I drift off to sleep, thankful for every facet of my life.
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 18, '13
    jaratarRN, Ir15hd4nc3r_RN, liebling5, and 26 others like this.
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  4. About canesdukegirl

    canesdukegirl joined Jul '10 - from 'Southern USA'. canesdukegirl has '13' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Trauma Surgery, Oncology Surgery'. Posts: 2,899 Likes: 7,114; Learn more about canesdukegirl by visiting their allnursesPage


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    30 Comments so far...

  5. 0
    Wonderfully written!
  6. 1
    Nice story... But, complete fantasy.. An ER nurse who works in the OR? ONE surgeon removing all organs? It takes 12 hours? From ER admission to organ donation in one shift? A soldier with liver failure? Let's break this down...

    From Level 1 GSW to organ donor in the time it takes to get dressed???


    ER nurse who also works in the OR ...... sounds like a small community hospital NOT a place that would do it's own organ retrieval...

    Organs are removed by surgeons who specialize in those organs.. They are organ retrieval teams that fly out to get the organs..

    Tissue typing and finding a match for a recipient takes a LOT longer than one shift...

    An active duty soldier would have been medically retired LONG before he needed a liver transplant.

    No organ retrieval on this planet takes 12 hours...

    A puppy??? Really?
    Last edit by ruler of kolob on Aug 17, '13
    lehcareaj likes this.
  7. 1
    Geez...
    roser13 likes this.
  8. 23
    Quote from ruler of kolob
    Nice story... But, complete fantasy.. An ER nurse who works in the OR? ONE surgeon removing all organs? It takes 12 hours? From ER admission to organ donation in one shift? A soldier with liver failure? Let's break this down...

    From Level 1 GSW to organ donor in the time it takes to get dressed???

    ER nurse who also works in the OR ...... sounds like a small community hospital NOT a place that would do it's own organ retrieval...

    Organs are removed by surgeons who specialize in those organs.. They are organ retrieval teams that fly out to get the organs..

    Tissue typing and finding a match for a recipient takes a LOT longer than one shift...

    An active duty soldier would have been medically retired LONG before he needed a liver transplant.

    No organ retrieval on this planet takes 12 hours...

    A puppy??? Really?
    I understood it was a story about an individuals experience and how it affected them...individually.

    I understood that the OR nurse on call in the building was alerted by the OR for a Trauma alert to come to the ED as was called in by the flight team
    Red tag 24yo m, GSW head, GCS 3, intubated, ETA 2 min air
    which is code for ..."Meet me at the back door!" when I was a flight nurse/medic.

    I understood it that it was clear upon arrival that his patient had non survivable injuries and was clinically brain dead (probably evidenced by the absence of brain matter in the cranium) so the OP stopped responding to the ED and went to set up the OR for what was going to be the obvious end to this sequence of events...as we have all experienced hundreds of times before.

    I felt, for content of the story, the RNFA assisted the multiple teams on retrieval of their own particular organ of interest while she remained scrubbed, or circulated, and that 10 hours later after vital organs removed...the donor closed and the room counted (if they count after a donor case...I'm not and OR nurse) room cleaned and flipped for the next call......was 10 hours later and that the soldier clearly on the donor list was called and arrived in the pre-op area for a new lease on life....anxiously waiting for the OR to begin their new journey with hope.

    I see a nurse exhausted and another holiday disturbed with her family by her dedication to our profession....arrive home drained from the events of the day who sought solace in the comforts of home, greeted by an adoring spouse, renewing her soul with man's best friend so she can repeat it all tomorrow.

    I think we need to be respectful of an individuals personal experience.
    Last edit by Esme12 on Aug 17, '13
  9. 1
    Post it as fiction...I actually do anesthesia for liver, kidney and kidney transplants.. I have more than a passing familiarity with the process...

    The process to asses brain death takes quite a while...

    It is fiction,,
    lehcareaj likes this.
  10. 2
    Another great one canes...wow.
    sapphire18 and Esme12 like this.
  11. 13
    Quote from ruler of kolob
    Post it as fiction...I actually do anesthesia for liver, kidney and kidney transplants.. I have more than a passing familiarity with the process...

    The process to asses brain death takes quite a while...

    It is fiction,,
    Brain death is a cerebral angio.......OR no brain matter left in the cranium from a GSW.

    Articles can be about personal experiences individual to the author and told in a story like fashion....she never said is was an academic publication fro a scientific journal.

    It's story about her personal experience as she chooses to tell it within the confines a a few hundred words.

    A STORY of a PERSONAL EXPERIENCE with a meaning to her life. It's Her story.... her truth.....it's not for us to judge.

    She has the right to tell her story her way. I believe we ALL need to be respectful and polite.

    We can all agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

    Canes...love the story!
    gonzo1, Wise Woman RN, EquestrianRN, and 10 others like this.
  12. 1
    canesdukegirl....I really enjoy your stories....keep it up! Loved it!
    canesdukegirl likes this.
  13. 1
    Beautiful Canes! Your stories always make me cry!
    canesdukegirl likes this.


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