Death of a child in the PICU

  1. I was just wondering how all the PICU nurses out there deal with the death of a child?

    I am a CNA and we recently lost a 3 year old boy. He had abdominal pain and threw up once. He was brought to the ER and coded in the parents car. By the time he arrived on our unit, he was already gone. He looked worse than any child I have yet to see, so pale and cold. Sadly, he was pronouced brain dead and the parents agreed to take him off of life support. Needless to say it was a rough day. Parents in and out all day. Friends, family, etc. It is the first time I have dealt with a death and I took it pretty hard. It took all my strength not to burst into tears in front of the family. It was so sudden, they arent even sure what killed him yet. I was in the room with mom and dad when we took his tubes and all out and was pronounced. Then we had to clean him up so that his older brother (only 5years old) could come see him and do other little things for memories. I about lost it when the brother came in. Of course, he does not understand that he will never see his brother again. But the thought of how strong the parents were to hold it together in front of him. They handled it so well. And now I keep thinking about what they are about to go though, with holidays and all coming up . I just don't understand why this happens to children, I know it is not right for me to question but I do. People say thing happen for a reason, I just wish sometime we knew the reason because sometimes it seems like no good comes out of these situations.

    After everyone left, we were about to take him away but the grandmothers came back in and cried/screamed on his bed for about an hour. I will admit to going to the bathroom to let it all out. And in my car at the end of the shift. I know I will never get used to a child dying, but is it weird that I cared so much? I have cried periodically thoughout today when I am somehow reminded of her. I know it is important to keep work at work but the death of a child is so tough. I know that working in the PICU I will see it more than most (this is where I plan to work when I graduate) Just looking for advice, encouragement, your stories, etc. Don't know who else to talk to outside of work. Thanks in advance.
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    About chickidee717

    Joined: May '09; Posts: 18; Likes: 6


  3. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    Your first death is something that stays with you forever. (I remember every detail of all my deaths... there are surprisingly few considering I've been at this since 1995.) Your reactions are totally normal and you seem to be handling things well. We've discussed this topic a few times before. Have a look at these other threads:
    Let's talk about death

    There's lots of good suggestions in these threads. I hope you feel better soon.
  4. by   CrufflerJJ
    In my 19 years spent in EMS, the death of a child was always tougher for me to deal with than the death of an adult. So much lost promise, so much lost future.

    It became even tougher when I had kids of my own. I know that I couldn't deal with it very well as a nurse, so I'll stick to my critically ill adult patients.

    Talk with a trusted coworker. If your facility has a EAP or CISD (critical incident stress debriefing) team, you might talk with them.
  5. by   Mexarican
    In the PICU you will see alot of bad stuff...and you will need to find your OWN way to cope and mourn...this will be of the utmost importance if you are to last in this type of unit. If you are having to trouble dealing with these things that doesn't mean you are not cut-out for it, it just means you haven't found a good way to cope that works for you. Talk with someone. Sometimes talking it over helps to process what you have experienced. Some people need to express themselves in order to process it, others dont. Perhaps finding out ways your co-workers cope would be a good place to start.'ll be surprised how some of the co-workers who have been there for a long time may have struggled with being exposed to children dying in the beginning of their careers.

  6. by   AlabamaBelle
    I cry with the families, I don't try to hold back what I feel.

    Saturday was one of those days. My precious patient, only 1 year old, was allowed a natural death. She "looked" dead when I assumed care, and once we turned down the vent settings, she went quickly. Once our MD declared her, it really hit the family. As I placed her in the bassinette to go with the funeral director, I just really lost it. My feelings are honest and I felt no shame in showing my feelings.

    I was able to visit the light of my life, my granddaughter, and cuddle her for awhile. My son and daughter-in-law are very understanding and indulge me. It helped alot.
  7. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    It's hard when your patient has been on the unit for a long time. You get to really know them and to like and care about the family. But still, no matter how close we get to them, we're still in that second circle of grief. No one understands why we are as affected as we are, because "we shouldn't be". Thank goodness our AN family understands. :icon_hug: