What is the worst hardship/story you have ever seen/heard in your nursing career?

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    As nurses, we get to know our patients intimately. So I'm asking this question: what was the worst hardship you have ever heard about that your patient has gone through? Abuse? Torment? Homelessness? AIDS? Trauma? Personal illness? Children with no parents?

    Anything. I would love to hear your stories.
    BeTheLight1145 and havehope like this.
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  3. 87 Comments so far...

  4. 31
    All of the above, and more. I had a guy whose brother slept under his bed in the hospital at every admission because neither of them had homes. We ordered him trays in the name of people who were NPO.

    The saddest ones, though, were back in the day of the early AIDS epidemic. I posted this on another thread last year.

    I'm old enough that I worked ICU when the AIDS epidemic was just beginning, and I was in the San Francisco-Seattle axis where we had a lot of gay patients anyway. I must say that it was a time when I was not proud of a lot of my colleagues. I would take my patient assignment of some poor man with what was then a fatal pneumocystis pneumonia (thank god we have better treatment now) and soon a fearful face would peek around the door with the unspoken question: Would
    this nurse let me in to see my lover who is dying? So many wouldn't, would shoo them away saying, "Family only!" as if the patient would have any family members who would even acknowledge his existence. It absolutely broke my heart. "Please come in," I would say. "I'm sure he'd be so happy to have you here. Would you like to help me bathe him?" "Can I?" "Of course you can, I'm sure he'd prefer you to me at this point!" The tenderness between these guys was indescribable.

    I had one experience, among so many, that was particularly heartbreaking. I was floated to a general surgery floor for a coupla summer days and for some reason we had a man with pulmonary failure on the "hot" side of the house, where the sun just baked the rooms all afternoon and no amount of air-conditioning would keep up with it. He wasn't my patient but I covered him when his nurse went to lunch, and his light went on. "Hey, Jen's at lunch. I'm GrnTea, what can I do for you?" He was lying in bed with the oxygen on, sweating and breathing with difficulty, and he said, "I'm just so hot. Can you help me?" So I got a basin of ice chips and alcohol (remember that? We did that before we had cooling blankets) and some washcloths and started to swab him down. And he started to cry. I stopped, startled, said, "What? What? Am I hurting you?" and he wept and wept and said (and this is where I start to cry now and every time I think of this story, thirty years later), "Nobody has touched me for three weeks." That poor man, in the hospital sick as a dog and knowing he was probably going to die very soon, and not one nurse had helped him bathe or eat or turn as he got weaker and weaker. It broke my heart.

    The next day I went in and asked to care for him again. He had been found dead on the floor of his room, having taken off his oxygen to go to the bathroom, probably because he thought nobody would answer his light, and probably desaturated enough to pass out. And they didn't find him until change of shift because nobody looked in on him all night.
    Fancypants09, doho_rn, nuberianne_RN, and 28 others like this.
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    I'm interested in the replies. This kind of stuff reminds me why I am in the nursing field. Those sweet little old ladies or gentlemen and stories like GrnTea mentioned makes it worth putting up with those few individuals that are rude and hateful not to mention violent.
    copeRN and lorirn58 like this.
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    wow that made my heart sink. That patient is no longer suffering. We can find peace in that. God bless you!
    GrnTea and JesusKeepMe like this.
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    My peds rotation was in LTC for children with brain injuries. One girl's birth story was heartbreaking. Her mother was in her 20s, and comatose in LTC for some reason. One day, an assessment revealed that she was 20+ weeks pregnant; the father turned out to be a staff member. She died in childbirth. The baby was born with a severe anoxic brain injury. The case made the news, and was still winding its way through the courts when I was in school.

    Another patient was hit by a car during a major custody battle. Her father had custody, and the first 5 pages of her chart were pictures of people who were not allowed to visit, including her mother and much of her family.
    copeRN, JustMe54, poppycat, and 2 others like this.
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    I work in psych I get the pleasure of hearing horror stories every day.

    The ones that hurt me the worst are the ones whos families have written them off because they cant handle their illness.
    copeRN, GrnTea, IowaKaren, and 2 others like this.
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    Quote from Not_A_Hat_Person
    My peds rotation was in LTC for children with brain injuries. One girl's birth story was heartbreaking. Her mother was in her 20s, and comatose in LTC for some reason. One day, an assessment revealed that she was 20+ weeks pregnant; the father turned out to be a staff member. She died in childbirth. The baby was born with a severe anoxic brain injury. The case made the news, and was still winding its way through the courts when I was in school.

    Another patient was hit by a car during a major custody battle. Her father had custody, and the first 5 pages of her chart were pictures of people who were not allowed to visit, including her mother and much of her family.
    So sad ;(
  10. 3
    Quote from GrnTea
    The next day I went in and asked to care for him again. He had been found dead on the floor of his room, having taken off his oxygen to go to the bathroom, probably because he thought nobody would answer his light, and probably desaturated enough to pass out. And they didn't find him until change of shift because nobody looked in on him all night.
    Ugh. I have something in my eye right now

    Thank you for sharing that GrnTea. I'm old enough to remember that time in history and the absolute paranoia of people that had contracted AIDS -- people pulling children out of school (Ryan White), prejudice, and just plain misunderstanding. Mind you, I wasn't in the healthcare industry at the time and can only imagine how hard it must have been.

    Thanks for sharing.
    RHIA, RN, poppycat, and GrnTea like this.
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    Huntingtons disease, its totally awful. Had a patient in his 30's who found out about the disease after he had 4 children. If I remember correctly, they were in the process of testing his kids, what a terrible feeling that must be.
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    Mine wasn't the patient's story, it was the family's story. I was working in LTC, and the patient was actively dying. We'd notified the family of his decline, and many showed up. We gave the family the standard treatment in those cases, they had coffee and snacks around the clock in the room, soft music playing, access to pastoral care, etc. I walked in at the beginning of my shift, and told them how wonderful it was that the patient could have his family there during his last moments. One woman, a daughter I presume, said, "Oh, yeah, we're just waiting. He beat and molested his children and wife until he was too disabled to, and we're just here to make sure he's dead."
    The family wasn't crying and upset about a parent dying, they were mourning their childhoods, and trying to close a chapter of their lives by watching their father die.

    I was shocked at first, but I can understand.

    I know there are nurses with far more abhorrent stories, especially in Peds. But this was one of my biggest challenges, both to process emotionally, and to be able to provide compassionate end of life care to this person. Death is the great equalizer.
    RHIA, RN, mebe5, canoehead, and 7 others like this.


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