Mothers Day

It seemed like a ‘routine phone call’ to the Emergency Department. But the phone call was anything but routine! Leaving a young secretary daunted as to how to respond, an ED Nurse handles the call. And how that phone call affected the nurse's outlook on life and renewed his spirit of compassion, especially towards parents and Mothers in particular. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Mothers Day

I bought a motorcycle last year. I've always loved riding and I've been wanting to get one for years. I finally cashed in some vacay time and bought a Honda Shadow 750. I love the bike and ride as often as I can - even commuting to work. It is very therapeutic - cathartic even - for me. I get extra depressed in the winter because I'm not on my bike.

What does all this have to do with nursing and Mothers Day?

Well, earlier this year, when I took my bike out of storage, my Mother made a quiet request: "Be a darling. I would love it if you could call me when you reach work and before you leave for the ride home at the end of the day." I essentially pooh-pooh'd her concern and essentially never really honored her request. Mom never brought it up again.

Fast forward to yesterday. Charge nurse recd. an alert from EMS that they were bringing in a young MVA/ATV victim - intubated. Unresponsive but un-cooperative on the scene. Looked bad.

Mind you, the ED at this time is its usual bedlam: Shift change due shortly, monitors and alarms going off, people talking in the crowded department, overhead pages announcing bake sales in the cafeteria, phones ringing constantly... KWIM?

A few minutes after this call and before the patient arrived in the ED, the secretary answered what seemed like a routine phone call. But with each passing minute, the look on her face got more and more strained. I mouthed a silent "Need help?" to her and her eyes practically screamed, "HELP ME!"

She put the call on hold and walked over to me (even though she was sitting opposite me at the desk.) "I don't know what to do! It's a patient's Mother and she's calling about her son. I've tried looking him up with what detail I can get from her - by the way, it must be an awful cell phone connection because she keeps cutting out. But I can't find him on our campus. He can't be an admit (ER and Inpatient use different charting systems) because she says he must have been brought here just recently because she was notified just now. Some kind of mudder/ATV incident or something?

That last part sent a spark through my brain. As I was walking back after I'd discharged one of my patients, I passed the charge nurse desk and overheard her ask one of our techs to clear one of our trauma rooms and set it up for an intubated patient.

I wondered 'Hmm, maybe this Mom's son and the tubed patient we're supposed to be getting are the same?'

"So anyway, I tried checking with XYZ Campus and they didn't have anyone by that name there either" the secretary continued. That's unusual because the secretaries do this on a daily basis. They know how to look up patients and records better than the nurses and docs. Records are their bread-and-butter. "By the way, I'm not even sure that's the actual name either. The phone connection is awful and she's so upset that she's not answering questions appropriately!"

"I'll speak to her. See what I can do", I said with a smile. I put all the cheeriness I could muster into my voice "Hello my name is Roy. I'm a nurse in the Emergency Department. How can I help you today?"

The voice that responded drained what cheeriness and sunshine I had left in me. I didn't need to be a psychiatrist to hear the desperation, anxiety, anguish, heartache, dread, and pain in that voice.

"PLEASE! HELP ME PLEASE! My name is Jane Doe and my son was brought to your hospital! They told me he's in bad shape. Can you..."

"Ma'am, what's your son's name?"

"John Doe. He has..." *cuts out* "...old. He said he was" *cuts out* "friends. Are they..." *cuts out* "...EASE HELP ME!"

"Ma'am I'm so sorry but I kept losing you during your last conversation. Could you please repeat that slowly..."

"He has red hair! He's a good kid! *sobs* PLEASE HELP ME! His ID says 100, Main Street, Anytown but that's not true *sobs* He lives with me! 10, Home Street! *sobs* PLEASE HELP ME!"

"Ma'am, what's the last name, first name and date of birth on his ID? It might make it easier to locate your son."


The sobbing had turned to crying.

My usual calm demeanor had turned to anguish! Anguish because my heartfelt every *sob* and plea entrained by the Mother. I was starting to get frantic because I couldn't locate her son ANYWHERE on our 5 campuses! I was just about to put Mom off hold and ask her if EMS or whoever called her had specified where they were taking her son, when out the corner of my eye, down the hall, EMS rolled in with a fairly young looking intubated patient. On a hunch, I said, "Ma'am, I've very sorry to put you on hold again but it will be for just a second."

I put her on hold, made laser eyes at the secretary and said: "run down to ambulance receiving and get me data on whom/what the patient is!" She needed no encouragement - ran down to the Charge Nurse desk, got info and ran back.

"It's a 20 some year old, intubated patient. Name is John Doe. Found unconscious by friends. Unknown downtime."

"Ma'am, I think your son just arrived at my Emergency Department. This is go..."


That last part was expressed as she dissolved into tears and crying.

There are very few times I hate my job. This is one of them. I 'hate it' because I hate giving people bad news.

"Ma'am - I'm so sorry I can't give you more information. But your son just got here and I can promise you that the best medical team in the world will be looking after him."

"IS HE ALIVE? IS HE BREATHING? (Anguish still in her voice)

"Ma'am, your son just got here."

I looked over and saw the team swarming him in the Resuscitation Room - docs, nurses, techs, respiratory therapists. I saw a multitude of complex machinery being used to try and keep the patient alive.

My heart sank. That's usually not a good sign.

"Ma'am, he's alive as of now. He's very sick BUT ALIVE, as of now."

"NOOOOO! NOOOOO! MY BABY!" she wailed.

I felt horrible. I didn't want to crush her spirits but I didn't want to give false hope either. Besides, I barely knew anything of what was going on with the patient. What I did know what that Mother and Son (even unconscious) needed each other.

As gently as I could, I spoke into the receiver again "Ma'am, please listen to me. Your son needs you right now. Where do you live?"

*sobs* "Farawaytown"

Ouch! But at least she isn't screaming hysterical anymore...

"OK. I need you to call your youn..." I paused as the secretary slipped a note in front of me - 'EMS dispatched a patrol car to the address of the Mother to escort her in.'

"Ma'am, the EMTs just told me that a police car has been sent to your address to escort you here. Call your younger son and have him come too. Either as a driver or as someone to help you. Please DO NOT drive yourself."

*sobs* "My son is already on his way!" *sobs*

"Good! Do you know where this hospital is located?"


"Good! Ok. I'm so sorry Mrs. Doe."

"Thank you so much Sir! Thank you for your help!" *sob*

I looked at the receiver incredulously and hung up.

I probably delivered the worst news she's probably ever heard in her life and she ends the call by thanking me?!

I shook my head and took a deep breath.

One of the other nurses from night shift stepped up to me and said "Hey Roy! Wanna give me report and get outta here?"

"Brother, you have noooo idea!"

As we were punching out after shift, my colleagues and I commiserated over the case. We all agreed that it was a horrid story and we all felt bad for the patient and his family.

On my drive home, all I could think of was that anguish and pain in that poor mother's voice. That phone call played back over and over again in my head. Heck, it's playing back in my head right now (and I have the goosebumps to prove it.)

As I parked my car and walked home, I noticed that the light was still on (it was well past midnight.)

Mama is still up...

I shook my head. My parents are retired and split their time living with my older Brother and Me. For years I've told Mother she doesn't have to stay up for me. That I'm a grown man now and I can take care of myself. But she insists. She says she can't sleep until she knows I'm home and safe.

I unlocked the front door and walked in. Mother looked at me and smiled. She looked worn and tired but she still smiled and said "Ah! You're home! How was your day?"

I didn't bother taking my jacket or shoes or my backpack off. I walked straight over, gave her a bear hug and a kiss and said "I think I'll call you when I get to work from now on."

Mama just smiled and said "Good!"

I still haven't told Mama about the case - because I know she'll worry.

She worries enough as it is.

I'm just gonna try and be a better son...

- Roy

PS: That phone call hit me like a wrecking ball. I just couldn't bear to even 'imagine' my dear Mama on the other end of that phone call. Talking to who knows who as she's frantic about the status of her son? And what was I pooh-pooh'ing anyway? A mothers love and concern for her son? What kind of a special, ungrateful, dimwit was I?!

I was raised in a culture that didn't have special holidays for "Mothers Day" and "Fathers Day." Where I come from, everyday is 'Mothers Day' and 'Fathers Day.'

'Honor your parents, for not only did they give life to you; they sacrificed a lot to try and make sure you had a better life than they did.'

I've been an ER nurse for years on end. Guns/Shooting/Hunting, Motorcycles, Sci-Fi stories, scientific documentaries and hockey (GO Buffalo Sabres!) round out my interests! I occasionally blog @

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allnurses Guide

Spidey's mom, ADN, BSN, RN

11,302 Posts

Very timely Roy. You did this mom's heart good.

Thank you.

This hit me hard today, I am a mom of 4(soon to be 6) boys, a psych nurse on a forensic admission unit and my husband and I and and our sons go muddin with ATVs and jeeps as often as we can. My father was killed when he was 30 years old in a atv accident and my mother hates that he shared his love of muddin with me, my husband and I met at a mud bog, my oldest went to his first "bog" at 10 days old(we only watched). My mother asks me to call or text her anytime we go out and always call when we get home. She says that she has already lost her husband to this and wants to keep track of us.

Altra, BSN, RN

6,255 Posts

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

This was intense - I've had those calls, and you wish you were anywhere but on the phone and saying anything other than what you're actually saying. But this is what we do.

Thank you, and Happy Mother's Day to your mom.


256 Posts

Specializes in Adult MICU/SICU.

Roy, what an amazing son you are. Every mother deserves a son just like you! You obviously do your parents proud. As a mother of a son I love more than the very air I breathe, you will always be your mother's baby no matter how old you are.

That story made my throat constrict with dread. That is the # 1 downside to nursing - you handled it in an amazing way. It must have been very hard reliving that again, but thank you.

(((I have to know … did he survive? Do you know?)))

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Joe V

9 Articles; 2,475 Posts

Specializes in Programming / Strategist for allnurses.

WOW! just WOW! (as I look for tissue paper)

I shared your story with my kids. With a note - Give your mom a (( BIG HUG )).

A great reminder on why we love our mothers.

Thank you for sharing!

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