A Patient Made Me Cry Today

My skin is really thick. I've seen a lot of things between being a nurse and a paramedic. I've seen abuse, neglect and death before. Today, IĀ got a patient from the emergency room with a massive infarct. The report I got never could have prepared me well for this patient. He truly broke my heart. Nurses Relations Article

When he arrived to the floor, I couldn't honestly tell if he was breathing. His gaze was fully deviated, he was contracted to one side, and had incredibly shallow, labored mouth breathing. I pulled him from the stretcher to the bed, got down to his eye level, held his hand and said "I'm allison, I'm going to be your nurse today." he pulled his hand away from me, completely frightened, and yelped out. I asked him a series of questions, but he had no answers. Just a wide eyed, terrified, deviated stare.

He was 88 years old and he looked like he was a survivor from auschwitz. He was so emaciated, he may have weighed 80 pounds soaking wet.... Upon assessment, I could actually see his guidewires from his pacemaker bulging through his skin. His skin turgor was so poor and he was so dehydrated that we were unable to place a peripheral line... And after two sticks from me, I gave up. He had been hurt enough.

His body was covered head to toe in bruises, in various stages of healing. They looked like palm prints and hand prints. His skin was totally ecchymotic and he had so many skin tears it took 12 pages of wound photos to document them all. His skin peeled back like the skin on a banana just by touching it... And on his back and his shoulders, a purple hand print that was probably very fresh.

I turned him over to assess his back. He yelped out again. His orifice was excoriated and bleeding and was probably the size of an apricot or small plum... It appeared that something was forced in it. He shook in fear and moaned loudly as the cna and I gave him a good bath, combed his matted hair, put him in a clean gown and applied lotion to soothe his dry skin.

I called the abuse hotline. I never intended to point a finger of blame... But someone had forgotten to treat this man like a human being. Social services came and did their own assessment and took lots of photos. He continued to moan, louder and louder. He pulled away every time we touched him as if we were going to hurt him. What happened apparently was he was at a nursing home until his medicare ran out... But made too much for medicaid, so he had been paying a "caregiver" to see to his needs at home. I didn't see this caregiver.. And I'm glad I didn't.. Because I may have said something very bad.

Lab called.... His troponin was 17. His infarct had spread to over 4 leads. His bp was dropping and his urine output was 0. I chased the doctor down to the icu to get a hospice referral and a dnr. I was not about to have to call a code on this man. The least I could have done was to get him a comfortable death. Paperwork was signed and hospice came to see the patient and agreed to take him at the end of my shift this evening.

I documented and documented. I turned him every hour, swabbed his mouth, made sure his skin was clean and dry, and went and sat for just a minute by the bed, to make sure he knew that if I he wanted to go, I would be there to sit with him. I didn't want him to die alone, not like that.

The paramedics came to pick him up and bring him to the hospice home. I signed his papers and helped them place him on the stretcher. He just kept moaning, and letting out these yelping noises. I walked them to the elevator and grabbed his hand and said "they are going to take you to the hospice house, so you can be cared for and comforted. It's ok to let go now." his eyes didn't move, but I knew he knew I was there.... Because tears started rolling down his cheeks.

And without saying a word for 12 hours, my patient made me cry.

May god bless him. I hope his ending is peaceful and that he is moved on to a much better place than was ever provided to him here. Today, I remembered why I became a nurse.

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology.

Allison, your mom sounds like a very wise lady. (Guess where you got your "stuff" from!) Another lesson for all of us.

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I am registered to begin nursing school this coming fall and have been terrified for a few weeks now. I am 38 years old now and I just want to be sure that this is my calling. I visit this site often and love reading all of the stories. I have learned alot (most of which I dont have a clue about) and have laughed at the funny ones. This story caught me off guard and like everyone else, brought tears to my eyes. I do know that I feel a calling to help the helpless. I havent had a clue what that might look like, but now I know. Thank you.

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Specializes in Onco, palliative care, PCU, HH, hospice.

Experiences like you just had, are the reason we are nurses. We care and love those who are forgotten and abused by society. You did so much for that man, you gave so much compassion and caring to him when he needed it the most. This story is just one of many answers to the question that we've all heard from someone in our lives "why do you do nursing?" This is why we nurse.

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Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Allison......you are feeling helpless and are grieving for this patient. You might find some helpful comments in this blog... Nurses Coping with Personal Grief Please feel free to share your story and feelings there. I think many will benefit from reading it.

I can barely see as I am typing this due to my tears. Thank you for sharing how nurses can make a difference.

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And this is exactly why I want to become a nurse...thanks so much for sharing your incredible story. I will remember this story when I embark on my clinicals next summer, no doubt I will be nervous and scared, like every new nurse, but I will remember your story. The power of your story will provide me with the strength and courage I need to become a successful and compassionate nurse.....Thank you so much for sharing, and God Bless that patient, I hope he is free from all his pain and in a better place very soon. You are a remarkable person.


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Specializes in LTC, MDS, Education.

Allison, I needed your post right about now to remind me why I decided to become a nurse over 30 years ago......

Hope you have a great sleep tonight filled with beautiful dreams! Thanks again for sharing. I know it wasn't easy to do, once you got home and all....


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Thanks for sharing that, that was very touching, I even shed a few tears. What a sad story how someone could be so cold hearted and treat another human like crap. God bless you Allison.

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Allison, I am a nurse wanna be right now, hoping to start school in the spring. You're story has done so much to calm some fears I've had, thank you for sharing.

Please look at your signature when you get a chance, it says it all.

"When you're a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life... Or a life will touch yours. "

I'm glad he touch yours today and that you have not become cold and unfeeling like some do.

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You are an amazing nurse. God knew that man needed someone who would care and love him. Bless you for bringing comfort to this poor man. This brought tears to my eyes. Keep doing what you do and know it will not go unnoticed.

There's a special place in hell for people who abuse the helpless IMHO.:angryfire

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This is what we need! You are the example of an amazing nurse.

Thank you for that.

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Specializes in Emergency.

Thank you for sharing your experience with this man. I work on a unit where we see lots of nursing home patients and patients that have private help, and I have seen some terrible things in my 2 short years of nursing. I applaud you for doing everything you could for that man while he was in your care. That is what being a nurse is all about, and I think that sometimes we can forget that in all the chaos of nursing. It's OK to cry and be sad for your patients, and you did everything you were supposed to do as his nurse. You may never find out what the results were of the social services investigation, but you did what you could to ensure he was comfortable, and to try to stop the abuser from doing this to someone else.

Thanks again for the reminder.


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