Centimeters Away From Brain Death

A normal day as a nurse can include life leaving someone's body. Have you ever stopped to think about that? It's Tuesday, you're pulling your scrubs over your head and putting your badge on.. and little do you know, in 4 hours you'll be the last person someone sees before they are ushered into the afterlife. And that's just Tuesday. The things we do on a daily basis still astound me, 4 years into my career. I can't believe I get to do this. When the reality of my work hits me in between blood draws, hanging antibiotics, calling doctors for doctors, and emergent intubations ... it really punches me in the face. And the last time, it was almost a knockout. Nurses Rock Article

Centimeters Away From Brain Death

I walked onto the chaotic neuro intensive care unit and saw a bed was missing. Great. They probably had to take that patient to an emergent CT scan.

I looked down at the assignment.. and, of course, it was my patient.

After I get report on my more "stable" patient, the night nurse is back from CT with her patient to give me report.

He's in his early 30, two kids and a loving wife, and a brain tumor the size of a banana in his head that's begun to press on his brain stem. He'd been having headaches for weeks and last night was confused, so they brought him to the emergency room, where they did the CT scan that showed the massive tumor.

The nurse had been pushing all night for him to get an emergent debulking of his tumor because his neurological exam was worse and worse. The neurosurgeon walks on the floor the second I finish writing her report down.

Emergent MRI. Emergent intubation.

The doctor quickly got consent from the confused family. Emergent right craniotomy for tumor debulking and biopsy, the consent read, with his wife's shaky signature at the bottom.

As soon as he left, they asked me, "what did he just say?" I had to explain to him that if we don't go now and relieve the pressure from the tumor now, he's going to be brain dead in a matter of hours. The blood left their faces as tears began to cover them. I awkwardly hugged his crying 14-year-old daughter.

As I was packing him up to go to the OR, I tried not to look at his son and daughter sobbing over him, telling him how much they loved him. I pretended I didn't see his wife give him 20 tear-soaked kisses on his neck.

I whisked him downstairs for the quietest, yet most emotional, elevator ride I've ever taken.

They said what they thought may be their last goodbye as I turned him down the hallway to the OR. No pre-op for us. We were going straight back to the operating room.

It's only 1023.

I get him back from the OR unrecovered after about two hours. By the end of the shift, he was stable, but critical. His family was a mess.. sitting there, staring at him. It's like they were just watching his chest rise and fall, rise and fall. Somehow, that was all they needed in that moment.

I gave report and left. I had two days off and when I returned, he wasn't in our unit.

My day was so busy and difficult, I didn't have time to figure out what happened to him. At 1600, I tried to slip away to eat something. As I was walking towards the break room, there he was.. walking towards me. Him, his wife, and two children were smiling at me, as he walked down the hallway with a walker.

I almost didn't recognize him without that breathing tube. I immediately recognized his family though. I'll never forget their faces.

I couldn't breathe all of a sudden. They literally took my breath away.

They said thank you, gave me a card, and told me to open it.

"Thank you for saving my father's life," it said in his daughter's handwriting.

I started sobbing in the middle of the busy intensive care unit. I had to leave the room to gain my composure. I gave them all a hug that probably had tears and snot mixed in. At that point, I didn't care what I looked like or what I got on them. I was just glad I could look at him, standing up face to face, and give him a hug.

He was extubated the next day. Transferred to the floor the following day. Going home today.

He was literally centimeters away from brain death 48 hours ago and he's going home today.

And it was a Tuesday.

Bedside critical care nurse, first-time adult, author of the nursing blog, nurseeyeroll.com, and expert Pinterest-recipe ruiner.

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Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Wow...that was so moving. :up:

Specializes in Hem/Onc/BMT.

How wonderful!

I've been feeling gloomy lately with many recent deaths in my unit. It's so nice to hear a happy-ending story.

Thank you so much for sharing this refreshing and emotional story. It's motivating. I needed to hear it at the moment.

This story is one-of-a-kind. Thanks.

Specializes in Dialysis.

Wow! Very cool story! Been reading your blog for a while too!

Specializes in Medical Surgical.

You have a gift for writing. You make me laugh when I am supposed to cry, and it is easy to make me cry!!! Love your story and your website.

Thanks for sharing. Sometimes we don't hear enough of the success stories, nor do we always get to see the positive end results of our care. Awesome story to start my day!

Someone please share this on Facebook. Very moving.

Specializes in Oncology&Homecare.

I just finished wiping the tears off my face. Isn't it nice to have a victory? So many times it doesn't work out that way. It's such a great feeling!

Specializes in Home Health, Geriatrics, Women's Health, Addiction.

This is what it's all about.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.
This is what it's all about.

Agree. :yes: