The Patients Who Break Your Heart - page 4
From the earliest days of nursing school, when we were taught never to become "too involved" with our patients, we nurses find ourselves balancing precariously on the gossamer thread that separates... Read More
Mar 27, '08Okay, so every one of these stories has brought me really close to crying. I want to put up something lighter - but I am only a nursing student and don't have any stories yet, but I wanted those reading this to come across a cheerful account, so I hope you all don't mind me posting this more personal story anyway. My grandfather had colon cancer when I was twelve. He was diabetic, so he had this "compact" calculator/timer that, as far back as I can remember, he would use to wait five minutes after putting in his eyedrops... I don't know the reasoning, but I do remember him taking out that calculator, a big plastic pill container labeled with the S-M-T-W-Th-F-S and eyedrops. This calculator would ding, say "Time is up" and play Camp Town Race Tracks (sing this song, doo dah, dooh dah, camp town race tracks five miles long, oh the doo dah day...) Anyhow, he was under hospice care for the last few weeks of that summer. He passed, as far as I could tell, rather peacefully, as he had been talking to his mother and deceased brothers three days previous. Anyhow, the priest came over to say some prayers before they removed his body, and the priest had just said something along the lines of asking God to take his soul to heaven, now that he has passed, when that timer went off: "ding dong, ding dong - Time is Up! *melody to Camp Town Race Tracks*". Even the priest laughed... my grandpa liked jokes, and humor, and I kinda believe he had some part in making that calculator go off... he bestowed one last laugh for us all.
Mar 27, '08I had my first experience with a baby who died of hypoplastic left heart just last week. Mom and dad chose palliative care before the baby was born. Once the baby was born he came to the postpartum unit with mom and fought hard for five days. He spent the noc in the nursery the first two nocs, at the parents request, and we made sure that baby was held the entire time he was in there. He was loved! I worked four out of the five days of his life and each morning before I left work, I told him I loved him and said good bye. My heart broke when I got the phone call telling me he had passed away.
Mar 27, '08wildeisenkcmo,
Thank you! I have been a nurse for 11 years and I can tell you it is always a good thing for us to remember someone for some special characteristic they had and remember to laugh every once in a while. I don't think any of us want our loved ones to cry and mourn us forever. Instead, I believe (at least I do) they want to be remember for all the good times they gave each of us. We as nurses tend to forget the really special times like you mentioned.
Thanks for sharing!
Mar 28, '08I wish there was one moment that has reached my heart in nursing, but it is a cumulative effort in my brain. From the frail children I watched slowly die from the inside out, to taking the elderly to the Almighty maker. Nursing is such a strong passion for me, and those who don't take it seriously should find another profession. Nursing is NOT about the paycheck (as we all know), and it is certainly not about the prestige (my brother to this day still calls me a glorified "butt wiper"). What matters is that YOU AS THE NURSE made a difference in someone's life, and they will take that with them forever. So if you feel like skipping a treatment, or dodging a family, remember that NURSING IS WHAT YOU PUT IN TO IT.....AND WHAT YOU TAKE OUT OF IT!!!!!!
Apr 3, '08Two little ones have really touched my heart... a little boy with severe SMA, who you could tell was bright and loving even though he deteriorated to where he couldn't move much of anything... whose mother was probably barely 20 (if that) and took stellar care of him in every way... medically and developmentally. He passed away this past November, I think he was eighteen months old.
Another little boy with congenital nephrotic syndrome... he spent most of the last 5 of his 7 months of his life on our floor, and passed away from some kind of infection in his central line that one day quickly resulted in devastating sepsis. He was a beautiful baby and his family and other nurses called me "his girlfriend" because I could almost always make him smile. We got to watch him grow and develop from a sickly, skinny, crying and in pain baby, to one who gained weight and was just learning to roll over... you'd put him on his stomach and he'd lie there in his little blue sleeper and just kick his legs and windmill his arms to beat the band, cheerful as could be. he was one of those ones you would bring to the nurses' station in the middle of the night and everyone would fight over.
both of these patients, it was their parents who amazed me... they knew when to let their beloved and beautiful child go, and in peace. I don't think I'll ever forget them.
another more cheerful story... well there are a lot of cheerful and wonderful stories in peds. a patient who was born with prune belly, and didn't have the muscles in her abdomen to support her breathing well and had to get a home vent until she gets big/strong enough to breathe on her own. she was on our unit for respiratory infections before she got the vent, and then again for a while as her family got used to caring for it. she was the most beautiful child i've ever seen... looked like a doll, with this unbelievably soft hair that was so long for a little baby and huge black eyes... and she loved to sit in her swing and watch the world go by. mom had to work a lot and so we got to pamper her a lot. she was everyone's favorite. and since she went home on that vent probably six months ago... she's not been back!!! i knew that mom would take good care of her...
Jun 20, '08I remember the two brothers who both had juvenile onset Huntingtons. The oldest brother was fully aware of what was happening to him but he was a fighter and wanted to try anything that might help. He was also a wonderful short story writer. The day the neurologist had to tell him that there were no other drugs to try for his tremors and gait disturbances he turned totally pale in the exam room. As I reached for my copy of the consultation form I saw the doctor had tears in his eyes. He whispered to me how he hated the fact that there was no cure.
My patient and I got in the car for the 10 minute trip back to his home. He was silent the entire time which was totally unlike him. We entered his home and I went to file the paperwork. My patient came back out of his room, walked over to me and said "It's going to happen to me just like it did my dad, right? I am going to die soon, maybe even before my next birthday." I tried to reassure him that no one could predict when that would happen but I couldn't hide the two tears that had spilled down my cheeks. He just looked at me for a moment, gave me his patented heart breaking smile and went back into his room. I turned back and continued my paperwork until another staff member came on shift.
I went to tell him good bye and he had written a short story and asked me to read it. Unlike all of his other stories this time the hero didn't make it out alive. The hero died a courageous death, but, nonetheless the hero died. I looked at him and told him he was my hero for the brave way he handled his condition and for being strong enough to deal with it. He gifted me with one more of those patented uplifting smiles and I had to smile back. Both of our faces were wet with tears.
He died 18 months later. He never wrote another story. He never stopped gifting the world with those gorgeous smiles. I will never forget him.
Jun 23, '08I worked in Pediatrics for several years and so many patients and families touched my life in ways they would never know. Just to see the smile on a child's face makes it all worth it. There are a few that stand out in my mind though.
A 3 month old that was shaken so hard by his "father" that he spent the remaining 10 months or so of his life as a vegatable, not able to see, hear, cry, swallow, move, nothing.
The 18 year old with severe SMA who was told he wouldn't live past the age of 1, but he made it past his 18th birthday!
The 21 week gestation baby who is now around 5 years old with NO major medical problems, and she sure is beautiful.
Numerous others that brightened my day every time I saw them. The ones who would come up and hug me when they see me. Nursing is a pleasure, got to take the good with the bad and be there to love and support the patients and families. Sometimes we are the only ones that they have.
Jul 10, '08I worked in an Alzheimer's Unit in an Assisted Living for over a year as a CNA. I will be entering my second semester in Nursing School.
There are so many memories and special moments that come to mind. In the Alzheimer's Unit when we would get a new resident they would join us in an early stage and progressively got worse with time.
I remember one night I assisted a newer elderly lady to her room and helped her get ready for bed. I had already grown attached to this lady. Usually each resident has there own rituals before bed. This nite was definately one of those sweet memories. She had just brushed her teeth and put on her soft little night gown. She reached in her medicine cabinet and pulled out a glass with maybe 100 bobby pins in it. She brought it to her bed and sat down. Now as a CNA with tons of showers to give and ppl to put to bed my first thought was I didnt have much time. But instead of being in a hurry I sat down with her. She proceeded to twirl her short hair into little curls and secure them with bobby pins. She was making small talk. I just sat there watching her, knowing how horrible Alzheimers is and how I dreaded to see her go downhill. She said "I do my hair like this every night". I said "Well maybe I can watch and you can teach me how so that I can help if you need me to one day." Ofcourse she didn't understand exactly what I meant. But I had such a huge knot in my throat because I knew there would come a day when she forgot how to put up her little curls at night. I had to fight back my tears so she wouldnt think something was wrong. I waited till she was done and then tucked her in. I always leaned down and kissed them on their heads.
It's amazing how much you can love ppl that you just met. The lady that I wrote about went "down hill" pretty rapidly and has since passed. I thank God for allowing me to take care of these precious people.
Jul 21, '08This one just happened last month. We had a 28 yr/female on my floor who had lost her husband to sepsis just 2 months previously. I had taken care of him as well. They have 2 young chldren... I came on shift that morning and went in to do vitals and she was on her phone just sobbing...she had just gotten a call that her 19 yr old brother whom she had raised since he was 12 yrs had been in an ATV accident and passed. He was truly her only remaining family member other than her own kids. She calmly sat the phone down and then tried to get up out of bed ,I had to catch her before she hit the floor.As I pushed the call button to get some help her dr. walked in the room for rounds unaware of what was going on. I quietly filled him in on the situation. It's the 1st time I've ever seen a dr sit on a patients bed and just wrap her in his arms while he asked the RN for IV Ativan, he just kept telling her """ I don't even know what to say"...As she was screaming that "everyone is gone now".This patient ended up having to be transfered to a different facility for surgery and I haven't seen or heard anything since but it just hit me I guess cuz she had so many tragic things happen in her short life and she is only a little younger than myself. I have seen worse things but I can't seem to get that image out of my head. It was heartbreaking to see and sense just how worn down she was and so young. Is there ever "the right thing to say" when involved in something like this?
Oct 15, '08I was so touched by your story. I know so many people who ask how you can stand working there and dealing with this. But I think you are the luckiest person in the world. You didn't just give him the gift of caring - he gave you a gift - of perspective, of true love and respect for someone, of humor in the worst situation. What a great life lesson. We are so privileged to be able to have these experiences and form these deep connections with others.
Oct 16, '08After reading this article it instantly brought me back to the facility I work at, One resident I had bonded with when I started out in dietary, she was the nicest lady and always cheered me up when I was having the worst day. She had moved to the facility I am currently working in and lasted for about another year. The last I spoke to her, I was going in the next day for heel surgery. While I was recovering she had passed when I didn't see her name on the list. I just sat there shocked and when I went home I cried because I wasn't there to say a good bye. It is hard to watch a patient/ resident go that you care for. But somehow you just manage to pull through and move on.
Mar 18, '09Thanks for sharing this. I was very moved by your words. I don't work directly with patients, but I work directly with nurses, and you have helped me understand more about their experience.