A Very Special Patient

  1. 14
    Sometimes, a special patient touches your heart. You never know when you'll meet that special patient or even why he affects you so deeply, but these are the people that make you glad you chose to be a nurse.

    Danny was a middle-aged gentleman with multiple health problems that hit him all at once. He found himself suddently disabled and afraid. He was admitted several times to our unit with heart failure; he had terrible ascites and needed his belly tapped at least once a week. His condition gradually deteriorated. He was my patient several times.

    One night, our ICU/tele unit was very busy. I had 4 tele patients of my own and I was in charge. I got a call from the OR telling us they hadn't been able to get Danny off the vent after surgery to place a drain in his abdomen, so I needed to find an ICU bed. All the nurses were busy; there was nowhere to put him, so I decided I'd take him myself even though I already had a full assignment.

    When Danny started to wake up from the anaesthesia, he was terrified to find himself on the vent. I held his hand and told him who I was. He recognized me at once. I explained that he was okay, he just had to stay on the vent for a little longer, but I would be right there to watch over him and protect him and I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him. He calmed down right away; he even smiled. I gave him enough sedation and pain meds to keep him comfortable. Throughout the night, I checked on him often to hold his hand and reassure him.

    He was still intubated when I left in the morning. Before I left, I told him that if he could stay calm, they'd be able to get him off the vent very soon.

    When I came back that evening, Danny was extubated, sitting up in a chair, and eating dinner. He gave me a big hug and told me I'd saved his life. He also said he'd had a bizarre dream while he was on the vent: he and I had gotten married, and our best man was a machine- presumably the ventilator. I laughed and asked if our maid of honor was the IV pole.

    Danny was able to go home a few days later. A few days after that, a bouquet of flowers arrived for me- the biggest bouquet I've ever seen! Included was a card from Danny thanking me and telling me how much my care had meant to him. Of course, I'll keep that card to my dying day.

    Danny died a few weeks later, at home, where he wanted to be. I cried when I heard he'd passed away, but I knew he was ready to go. I still think of Danny and how fortunate I am to have known him.
    kessadawn, Chamorrita671, trebugRN, and 11 others like this.

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  2. 10 Comments...

  3. 0
    what a lovely story. Reminds me of a gentleman we used to get in the unit quite often. The world keeps turning and the patients keep coming, we always manage to save a small spot in our hearts for those who have touched our lives. Thank you for sharing your story and for giving me an opportunity to walk down my own memory lane. Ivanna
  4. 4
    My very first patient when I was a new grad was a lovely woman named Diane. She was 31. I took care of her for seven months. Seven months in ICU! She had a bad gallbladder. And went septic. I knew her better than I know anyone in my immediate family. I spent more time with her than I spent with my own children.

    I was her nurse the day I put her Passy Muir valve in for the first time. I gave her the phone and she called her husband at work. Her words to him were the first she'd spoken in 4 months. We both (well, all three of us) cried with joy.

    At one point, 4 months into her hospitalization, she was transferred to the regular floor. Her trach was out, she looked awesome. The doc wrote in her chart: "Home tomorrow?"

    That night she developed a massive, spontaneous pneumothorax. She was transferred back to ICU. Chest tubes everywhere. Her lungs were shot. Septic again. She was dying, and she was fully aware. That was the worst part: she was awake and aware and she knew she was dying.

    I was working day shift one day, and as I left the unit I walked past Diane's room. Her dear husband had both of her little children in there. He held each of them up so they could see their mother's face. I can still hear their little voices now.

    "Good bye, Mommy! I love you, Mommy!"

    I'm crying now as I write this, and this was 13 years ago.

    The next day, they took Diane off the vent and she died. At 31 years old, from a bad frigging gall bladder. They held a memorial service in our hospital's chapel for her, and I cried so hard. I would have given my life in an instant in order to save hers. I still would.

    I used to have nightmares where Diane was dying and I had to save her, but I couldn't. I wished so badly that I could save her, but I could not.
    Chamorrita671, Erindel RN, dmdmd, and 1 other like this.
  5. 0
    Can I ask..because this is OT...(your story was very touching)...

    Why you took it upon yourself to recover a vented patient with 4 others?

    That is not standard of practice and I wonder whether this is something your work area does frequently?
  6. 0
    No, we never take 5 patients. Four teles is a full assignment. But the PACU nurses had gone home, all the other nurses were just as busy as I was, and there was no extra staff available. I at least knew Danny so taking care of him was a piece of cake. We have excellent teamwork on our floor so I had people to help me out. It's definitely NOT something I'd do normally.
  7. 0
    Thanks you for sharing your very touching stories. You are a very compassionate nurse. May you always be one.

    It's really amazing how a simple gesture like holding a hand, can do wonders for pts.
  8. 11
    A couple of nights ago, I took care of a woman who recently learned she has metastatic cancer. She has roughly six months to live. When the clock hit midnight, it was her birthday- almost certainly her last birthday.

    During the few minutes I had free, I made a huge happy birthday banner and had another nurse help me to hang it in the patient's room while she was sleeping. I also made that patient a handwritten birthday card.

    I found out from my friend on day shift that later that day, the staff bought her a birthday cake and sang to her.

    Recently, an older woman was hospitalized on our unit and was going to miss her daughter's wedding. Obviously, the poor woman was distraught. So a nurse friend of mine commissioned everyone on the unit to make flowers out of flattened paper med cups, color them, and decorate the patient's room with them. This same nurse also arranged for the whole wedding party (dresses, tuxes, bouquets, and all!) to come to the hospital to see the patient and celebrate with her.

    Last Halloween, one of my patients was a nine year old girl with a ruptured appy. (We virtually NEVER get peds on our floor.) I instructed her mom to bring in her costume, dress her in it, and do her full makeup. My boyfriend, on my instruction, bought candy, drawing paper, markers, little toys, stickers, and all kinds of cool stuff. When I got to work, I ran around giving everyone handfuls of stuff; even some of the patients wanted to participate.

    A nurse or aide or secretary or doctor was stationed at every room on the unit, and then my patient went trick-or-treating (pushed in a wheelchair, with a pillowcase for a goody bag). Everyone was grinning, especially the bedbound patients who had a chance to hand out treats to the little girl.

    Of course we're too busy to do things like this, but we do it anyway. Because what is more rewarding for a patient than to receive a genuine gift of caring? These are the moments that make our job worthwhile.
  9. 0
    This made me cry when I read it.
  10. 1
    Before I got my nursing license I worked as CNA in an Infirmary for nuns. It was my first CNA job so naturally I became attached to all of the residents. One of the sisters in particular though touched my heart. She had alzheimers and would constantly scream out at night and would moan and yell for hours at a time. I would go in and sit with her and hold her hand until she fell asleep. The coordinator over the facility (which was also a sister) would come up to me and tell me I was the only one who could keep her calm and that as soon as I'd enter the room she'd stop yelling. They used to say that maybe I reminded her of someone from her past? im not sure? But I do know that every time I was with her I could fill her stress lessen and thats what mattered most. One day I had just gotten to work and I was working on her hall and of course she was yelling out. I walked into her room and sat on the side of her bed and held her hand and she looked at me and said "Let's go" and I said "Sister, where are we going?" and she responded "Let's go to heaven." and then she began to say the act of contrition. Im not sure how familiar any of you are with catholicism but the act of contrition is a prayer that they say. Any way she began screaming "Let's go! Go with me!" while squeezing my hand. She died a few weeks later but I will always remember her. I could tell that she really cared about me and appreciated me being by her side and caring for her. She definitely touched my heart.
    dragonflyaltoids likes this.
  11. 3
    I had a patient like this recently. A young female patient came to us after having a hemicolectomy for colon cancer, during her hospitalization they found that it had metastasized and that her prognosis was extremely poor. The second night I had her she had an incredibly serious complication that neither the doctor nor I could figure out until the last moment of my shift and with a specialist consult. I spent 8 hours of my shift at least at her bedside doing everything I could to make her comfortable and try to figure out what was wrong. Her family was at her bedside and could obviously tell not only how concerned I was but that I was truly doing my best to help. By the end of my shift she was looking better and several days later was able to go home. She came back about 2 weeks later and requested me to be her nurse, when the charge nurse told me, I cried. I couldn't believe she even remembered me. I only was able to take care of her for one night before she was transferred, but I will always remember her.
    trebugRN, franciscan gypsy, and DutchRN like this.

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