The Patients You Will Never Forget
Over the years, I have probably cared for thousands of patients. Most of them I don't remember, but there are a few who have stood out in my mind, for one reason or another.
When I was in nursing school, I was doing my rotation in OB/L&D. I was still single with no children of my own, so to me, the Miracle of Birth was awe inspiring. My first patient was a 16 year old girl. Her boyfriend was 15 and looked 12. She was fairly well along in labor, and she wanted her boyfriend to rub her back. When he stepped up to the bed and put his hands on her, she screamed "Get away from me!". So, he would back away. One minute later, she asked him to rub her back again. He stepped up to the bed and laid his hands on her back and again she screamed "Get awayyyyy!". This happened about three more times until the poor kid was terrified and didn't know if he was coming or going!
Another L&D patient I remember was an 18 year old girl. She was quiet and timid. She was married to a loud mouthed old coot about 40 years older than her. They lived way back in the mountains, and he acted as if she were his property. She suffered through labor barely making a sound. When the nurses asked her a question, he would answer for her. After the doctor delivered the baby and was stitching up her episiotomy, the husband ambled over to the doctor and grinned, "Hey doc, while you're in there, stitch her up a couple more stitches. Make 'er good and tight". The look on the doctor's face was priceless.
My first job out of school was at a nursing home. I became close with a patient there who had had several strokes. She was aphasic. When she wanted something, she would say "GaGaGa". That could mean anything from "I'm thirsty" to "I need to pee". When she became frustrated, "GaGaGa" would escalate to "GAGAGAAAAA". She was flaccid on her right side and was a brittle diabetic to boot. One night when I went to check her blood sugar, she did not look right. She would not respond and her face was drained of color. Her blood sugar was fine. At first, I thought that she was having another stroke, but as I listened to her apical heart rate, I realized that she was having an MI. She was a DNR. I sat with her until her heart slowed down to a flutter and then stopped. Then I bowed my head and cried.
A few years later I was working in a hospital on the skilled nursing floor. It was my first hospital job and it was my first day of orientation. The day had been extremely busy and we had not eaten, so my preceptor told me to go down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. I was gone about 20 minutes. When I came back to the floor, I looked around and couldn't find my preceptor. Someone said, "Oh, I think she is in Room 63". As I headed toward the room, I saw about five family members standing outside of the room. Still oblivious, I entered the room to find two nurses, two CNA's and the respiratory therapist surrounding the bed. I glanced at the patient, and said, "Ew, He doesn't look very good, does he?". The CNA's looked at me like I was an idiot and replied, "That's because he's dead". Ohhhhh! He was a DNR, so a Code Blue wasn't called. When I came back to the floor, no one thought to tell me that my patient had expired. Since then, I have become a much more experienced nurse, thank God.
A few years later, I started working on a Med-Surg floor. I remember the 18 year old IV drug user whose arm was so infected that for a while, it looked like he might lose it. I remember the 50 year old mom who had not sought out treatment when one of her breasts started to fester with necrotic sores. By the time she did see a doctor, nothing could be done. She died a month later. I also remember the 30 year old guy who was cheating on his wife AND girlfriend with another woman. He had strange sores on his penis. The doctor said they looked like bite marks. His penis was covered with oozing sores that tested positive for MRSA. The Infectious Disease doctor told him that he may be rendered impotent. I don't know if that was the truth, or if he was just trying to scare the guy. I remember my first HIV positive patient. I remember my first patient with full blown AIDS. I remember the patient that I performed CPR on and her ribs cracked under my hands. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up.
I have certainly taken care of my share of interesting patients. I am not sure why I remember some patients, but forget about others. Maybe something about their personality or the story surrounding what brought them to the hospital in the first place has something to do with it. Maybe somewhere deep inside me, it struck a chord and made me learn a lesson about myself. If you want to read more interesting stories about memorable patients, check out this thread.
Nov 21, '07One is still a patient. He is deaf and mute and totally adorable. I just want to hug him every time I see him. He reads lips very well. I had an ASL class in college, and I have forgotten a lot of signs, but I have remembered some. He has been practicing with me. Today I told him that before he got discharged I would learn the sign for you're welcome. Well, this afternoon, I got it. He was thrilled. I was thrilled. Now I have to find another ASL class so I can brush up....Nov 21, '07The ones I remember from school: Mrs. P who had a huge decubitus we manage to get cleaned up and starting to heal; she went home, but came back a few months later DOA. Bad diabetes.
A ~ 11 y/o w/Thalassemia; he'd been in and out of the hospital so many times, mom would drop him off @ the front door, he'd go up to the floor, give his entire H&P to the intern (shoulda seen the look on THEIR faces!); he could read our names which were sewn on our sleeves and took great pride in addressing us by name--always "Miss so-and-so" in those days.
George, one of my 1st pts after graduation. He had been a Freedom Fighter in WWII, hiding in caves and so forth. He was w/us for 5 months b/o of a draining abd fistula and massive wound infection. We had him on a Stryker frame. Quite a character and a bit of a flirt.
This Little Old Lady, resident of the county snf, long standing p/CVA; was in the ICU b/o of kidney problems. Aphasic x she could say, "ah, see", and did it w/much meaning so we could often discern what she was trying to say or wanted. Very bright and responsive. She was hemi-plegic, but was very good @ using her good arm and leg to change her position. One night I asked her if she could speak Spanish (b/c of the "ah, see") and she nodded. "Oh, good, we need a translater around her!" She just laughed and laughed. The day shift nurses would get her up in a chair, one day they washed her wispy white hair, tried to curl it on the plastic syringe containers, and put make-up on her; when the docs came on rounds, they got into it, and flirted w/her. She loved all the attention! Must have been a huge difference between the county and the ICU. She was widowed and had absolutely NO family. What a sweetie!
Then there was Artie; he was a very premature little guy, had severe Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, failure to thrive, etc, etc. One day I was giving him a Racemic Epi treatment, sitting on my lap---and breathing it myself, too! I had to ask someone to come take him away from me before I fell off the chair I was sitting on! He stayed w/us for 13 months, but finally passed away.
R was another baby I got very attached to who died. We were never quite sure what his problem was, but we were never able to feed him adequately.
N was a baby who was transferred from another state because her family actually lived her, but mom went into labor visiting family. She arrived w/a trach, g-tube and subclavian line. She also went into a bronchospasm the 1st morning she was there during report, giving us a taste of her little personality. I swear the kid knocked a good 10 years off my life--she would just turn purple! Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the TCM--triple digits! She did go home-the 1st time, she bounced right back, but the 2nd time, she stayed home. She was w/us till she was 11 m/o. She still had a trach and g-tube when she went home; her room looked like an ICU! They'd put her on the vent @ night, days, just a trach collar. Eventually, she was able to get rid of both the trach and g-tube. She's about ?9y/o now, needed to have a cochlear implant (because all the antibiotics, she was hearing impaired). She's tri-lingual, English, sign language and a little Portuguese. Very bright. A real success.Feb 29, '08I like most have many memorable moments and people that will never be forgotten and are the reason we love nursing. Some of them..
Mack, my British orphan who was sent to Canada to work on farms in Saskatchewan as a child and who I grew to love in a seniors lodge as we did deep breathing and coughing together every day.
Another resident there who had chronic diarrhea for months, went through every horrible test in the book and finally cleared up when I asked what vitamins he was taking and found out he was actually overdosing on them!
The two kids with CP that we took care of in the small town hospital I worked at.
The family of the man in the Special Care Unit who was taken off cardiac monitoring, who were terrified because they thought his heart would stop beating without it.
The priest whose hand I held while he died, because he had no family.
The patient on the oncology ward who decided to leave his broken arm unfixed because if he had surgery he wouldn't get the bed on the palliative ward.
The ALS patient who could only blink and cried most of the time.
The mother who broke down when she couldn't dress her busy 2 year old with her crying newborn in her arms.
The senile old lady who used to climb up the tall young orderly while she was stark naked.
It is humanity that makes us love nursing. We have an opportunity few others have to touch others lives and make a difference. It is such a shame that the health care system has made it so hard for so many of us to continue to work in the settings that we have actually found the most satisfying.
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