Running off Grief

  1. 30

    Although, I've been a nurse for a few years now, I experienced my first patient loss in my career recently as a NICU nurse. My outlet for my grief, and source for reflection, became running. Although I wouldn't call myself a writer (or a runner, for that matter), I was bitten by the most peculiar creativity bug during my work out, and wrote this immediately after I finished exercising.

    It's with sad irony that I power up the treadmill in the gym exactly 24 hours after I started chest compressions on you. You were my first patient loss. Being new to the NICU (though not new to nursing), I know you won't be my last. I forced myself down to the gym to run off the grief.

    The myriad of feelings that I have experienced in the last day is overwhelming. The entire unit, even the doctors, cried as your family walked in to hold you for the first and last time. We held them as they held you. I woke up briefly in the middle of the night. My initial feelings, that I felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of sadness, had evolved. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me instead. It made me restless. I needed to do something.

    Sweat begins to run down my forehead as I get closer to completing my first mile. Moments replay in my head like a movie, of how your care progressed in the times that I took care of you, of bargaining with God as your heart rate started to drop, of calm desperation as our team rallied around you, and of the feeling of indescribable defeat as we stopped our efforts. I had a feeling that you'd be leaving us on my watch as soon as I laid eyes on you. You looked so unwell compared to previous days. Based on your labs and vital signs, you were circling the drain. We tried so hard to save you anyway. You fought so hard with us.

    Glancing at the clock as I continue to run towards mile one-and-a-half, I realize that, 24 hours ago, your resuscitation still continued. I was giving you yet another dose of epinephrine at that point. We all stared at your heart monitor, praying that (somehow) your heartrate would increase, allowing the rest of us in the room to breathe. And even though I'm getting tired now, I think of your family. I think of how tired they must feel. I think of how you must have felt so tired, especially at the very end.

    I push harder. Thump, thump, thump, my feet whack against the treadmill belt. I force myself run faster. The last time that I ran multiple miles was in high school, but it looks like I'll do it again today. I might hurt tomorrow, but it'll be gratifying to focus on the physical soreness achieved from exercise instead of the emotional pain.

    I step off of the treadmill today one minute after we stopped your resuscitation efforts yesterday. No amount of medication, chest compressions, blood product, or ventilation would keep you with us anymore. Some might say that I was running from my feelings today, but all I saw as I stared at the wall ahead of me when I ran was you.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jan 13, '13
    Tait, kldepp08, Floridatrail2006, and 27 others like this.

    Enjoy this?

    Join thousands and get our weekly Nursing Insights newsletter with the hottest discussions, articles, and toons.

  2. Visit  Calabria profile page

    About Calabria

    Calabria has 'Always looking to learn!' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'NICU, OB/GYN'. From 'U.S.A.'; Joined Mar '11; Posts: 119; Likes: 283.

    Read My Articles

    27 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  tnbutterfly profile page
    3
    Thank you for sharing this very beautiful story. Your sadness and compassion is palpable. This brought tears to my eyes. It is through the grief we share for our patients that we gain a better understanding of what true compassion is.

    "The dew of compassion is a tear." Lord Byron
    poppycat, lindarn, and nrsang97 like this.
  4. Visit  carolLeeAnn profile page
    1
    This story brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of the first time I experienced the loss of a very young patient.
    Thank you for sharing.
    nrsang97 likes this.
  5. Visit  VivaLasViejas profile page
    3
    I too am typing through tears. What a sad, beautiful, poignant tribute to a little one you'll never forget. Bless you.
    poppycat, pink345, and nrsang97 like this.
  6. Visit  sapphire18 profile page
    0
    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.
  7. Visit  tayloramaRN2be profile page
    0
    Thank you so much for writing this. It was eloquent and sad. I too, am writing this crying.
  8. Visit  limaRN profile page
    4
    Thank you for your story. Just had an awful shift myself in the ICU. Coded a young mother with a child of about 8 and new baby twins all night. She did not make it. This was not my first code but one of the most sad
    poppycat, Calabria, VivaLasViejas, and 1 other like this.
  9. Visit  Bortaz, RN profile page
    3
    While sadly not my first baby loss, we went through this very thing less than a week ago. It never gets easier, for me. Glad that your running helps you cope.
    poppycat, Calabria, and sapphire18 like this.
  10. Visit  tewdles profile page
    0
    Quote from Calabria
    It's with sad irony that I power up the treadmill in the gym exactly 24 hours after I started chest compressions on you. You were my first patient loss. Being new to the NICU (though not new to nursing), I know you won't be my last. I forced myself down to the gym to run off the grief.

    The myriad of feelings that I have experienced in the last day is overwhelming. The entire unit, even the doctors, cried as your family walked in to hold you for the first and last time. We held them as they held you. I woke up briefly in the middle of the night. My initial feelings, that I felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of sadness, had evolved. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me instead. It made me restless. I needed to do something.

    Sweat begins to run down my forehead as I get closer to completing my first mile. Moments replay in my head like a movie, of how your care progressed in the times that I took care of you, of bargaining with God as your heart rate started to drop, of calm desperation as our team rallied around you, and of the feeling of indescribable defeat as we stopped our efforts. I had a feeling that you'd be leaving us on my watch as soon as I laid eyes on you. You looked so unwell compared to previous days. Based on your labs and vital signs, you were circling the drain. We tried so hard to save you anyway. You fought so hard with us.

    Glancing at the clock as I continue to run towards mile one-and-a-half, I realize that, 24 hours ago, your resuscitation still continued. I was giving you yet another dose of epinephrine at that point. We all stared at your heart monitor, praying that (somehow) your heartrate would increase, allowing the rest of us in the room to breathe. And even though I'm getting tired now, I think of your family. I think of how tired they must feel. I think of how you must have felt so tired, especially at the very end.

    I push harder. Thump, thump, thump, my feet whack against the treadmill belt. I force myself run faster. The last time that I ran multiple miles was in high school, but it looks like I'll do it again today. I might hurt tomorrow, but it'll be gratifying to focus on the physical soreness achieved from exercise instead of the emotional pain.

    I step off of the treadmill today one minute after we stopped your resuscitation efforts yesterday. No amount of medication, chest compressions, blood product, or ventilation would keep you with us anymore. Some might say that I was running from my feelings today, but all I saw as I stared at the wall ahead of me when I ran was you.
    Thank you for this story!
    Our ability to deal with grief has a significant impact on our ability to grow and provide good, compassionate care to the next patient.

    You are wise to return to the gym and to use physical exercise to help with your balance.

    Good luck.
  11. Visit  SarahLeeRN profile page
    0
    Thank you. I think everyone has different ways of dealing with the stress of nursing-mine usually is to take a long walk and then write. Sad as your story is, thank you for a glimpse into your story and how you coped.
  12. Visit  JZ_RN profile page
    0
    I know this exact feeling. There are no words for it, it just burns inside of you and you can't do anything about it. Nicely written.
  13. Visit  multi10 profile page
    1
    I was on a singles cruise a month ago. We were on a catamaran and chilling. The man that liked me asked, "What do you do"? Me: "I'm a nurse."
    He said, "Tell me about the most powerful memory you have as a nurse." Alright, so, we're on the water getting ready to jump off the boat. Me: "I was a nursing supervisor and went to the ED after a 6-year-old.... (At this point, I had to wave my hand and stop talking)
    Him: So what happened?
    Me: crying. I can't talk about it
    Him: okay. Let's go swimming.
    Me: Okay (I didn't tell this to anyone). Boy brought in via ambulance after he had run across the street and was hit by a car. Everyone tried all they could but the boy died. It was excruciating
    The hardest part is to not cry on the job.
    How did I deal with it at the time? I drove home. Had massive sex with my husband. Cleaned the kitty litter. Walked my dogs in the park. And cherished the fact that I'm alive.
    GrnTea likes this.
  14. Visit  Devon Rex profile page
    0


Nursing Jobs in every specialty and state. Visit today and find your dream job.

Top