Just Another Code

A code is called...it's the woman in room 11.


  • Specializes in Mixed Level-1 ICU. Has 14 years experience.

Earlier, the paramedics found her--deep in the winter of her life--lying like a rag doll in a man's lap. Shocks and drugs refocused her heart's energy. She is whisked to the emergency room and then transferred intensive care.

Now, the team of nurses and doctors stream in, prepared to wage war against the various demons of fate, or to some, the will of G-d.

"Who is she," asks a physician.

But, "who" the woman is--her goodness, her humanity--concerns no one but the angels.

The coat she once placed over a homeless man, that cold February eve so many years ago, placed no reciprocal burden upon the universe. And the love she so graciously offered others is not the currency against which time can now be redeemed.

No, the physician seeks only histories and co-morbidities, accidents and nature's anomalies. Now, only the cold mechanics-of-things is honored. Only algorithms and the precision of commands.

In the waiting sits a man. He closes his eyes and slips into his favorite chair. He drifts off to the sounds of a woman preparing a meal. The aroma of memories revives her smile and the deep-blue mysteries within her eyes. Fifty years of embraces and shared secrets. Fifty years discovering the essence of life, the possibility of tethered hearts.

An overhead page barks out bleeding his memory.

We see and touch the woman, but she is not there. She is off dressing dolls and chasing first snowflakes. Off molding perfect sand feet on the beach with her lover. Off kissing the scented foreheads of sleeping babies.

Drugs are pushed, lines are placed, and the room bulges with personnel eager for the "drama" of their calling. Compressions convulse the woman's body and fluids stream into translucent veins. But she is no more alive than the silver locket that drapes her pallid neck.

Family members discuss miracles. They invoke the name of a compassionate G-d and speak of prayer and grand designs. The room echoes with enough distilled optimism to change the course of a river.

But, at 25 minutes, the physician calls the code. Hands are stilled and suddenly there is silence. We quickly glance and nod at each other. So many years and still unable to capture the last vapors of life as they float from the room.

The nurse enters the waiting room and goes to the man. He searches her face for possibilities finding only despair.

He cries out to some divine power to rewind a life. The family embraces the man with love made complete by the man and the woman.

We clean and restore modesty to the woman's body. When the family steps in we close the heavy glass door but the rise and fall of sobbing seeps into the interior of the unit.

Soon, the floor will gleam, the sheets will be changed, and fresh tubing will be coiled around suction canisters.

And the woman will be dancing in a man's dream.

Laughter, foreign travel, and helping out the underdog. Be Courageous...you may not end up with a thousand friends, but those who run beside you will be true.

6 Articles   382 Posts

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SillyStudent, ASN, RN

1 Article; 287 Posts

Specializes in ER/ICU, CCL, EP. Has 8 years experience.

Another tear-jerker, interleukin. Thanks for the messages you convey. :)


1 Article; 369 Posts

Specializes in ICU, Emergency Department. Has 7 years experience.

Just beautiful.. thank you.

Brian, ASN, RN

11 Articles; 3,695 Posts

Specializes in CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele. Has 29 years experience.

interleukin, kudos again on another brilliant article!

You are such a talented writer, your nursing stories are amazing. Your articles absorb the reader and make you feel like you are right there. I know, everytime I read your articles, it takes me back to a place in time with the many memories I have had with my patients.


6 Articles; 382 Posts

Specializes in Mixed Level-1 ICU. Has 14 years experience.

Dear Brian,

Thank you.

I write from the heart and try to transform events which we often --after many years--tend to increasingly treat as mechanical or routine.

Because we are under increasing pressure to accomplish more and more in the same period of time, I think many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to still be the "good nurse."

But, as long as I am wearing scrubs, I owe it to my patients to imagine and focus on those things that make them uniquely human.


59 Posts

Specializes in Obs. Has 12 years experience.

Wow...beautiful. Thank you for sharing.


30 Posts

truly beautiful yet dignified, not maudlin....dankeschoen


4 Posts

This was a very emotional story to me as I just nearly died last October with pneumonia and was on a vent for 9 days. I saw and heard the angels, saw the bright tunnel. My husband didn't leave my side, our love has grown so much since that time and each day since is a gift and I know that. Thank-you, this is a great story. :cry:

Specializes in ICU, CVICU.

Wow! You really are a gifted writer. Well done!!!


6 Articles; 382 Posts

Specializes in Mixed Level-1 ICU. Has 14 years experience.

Thank you kindly.

Pediatric Critical Care Columnist / Guide

NotReady4PrimeTime, RN

16 Articles; 7,358 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology. Has 25 years experience.

Such powerful use of language is indeed a gift. The images you evoked are crystal clear, no imagination needed. The day we forget that the patient is somebody's love is the day we should leave this job to those who haven't.


16 Posts

thanks for sharing! dramatic tear jerker!:cry: