My dad was a 'throw-away'

People do what they need to do at any given moment and it is up to us to be advocates for them. I know there are those who will say 'save those feelings for when you are in the nurses' station, or in the staff room'. I would challenge that. I would say, suspend those feelings entirely until it becomes a part of you. Stop them in their tracks. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

My dad was a 'throw-away'

I have just graduated from an RN program. A month before my grad, my dad needed emergency brain surgery for an injury he sustained at work. Due to a series of complications, what should have been a relatively easy surgery turned into him being put into a medically induced coma. It has been over a month now, and he is slowly coming back to us, after weeks on end of non-responsiveness.

All the while, there have been great nurses, and there have been not-so-great nurses. I have learned such valuable things from both kinds. Sure, they are all terrifically 'efficient'. That means nothing to me, actually. We have had amazing care and consideration from a handful of them. Sadly, more often, we have also had thoughtless and hurtful things said to us, in front of us, and within earshot of us, unbeknownst to them. There have been things said in the presence of my father who was in a deep coma that I am sure he heard, because now that he is somewhat lucid, he nods 'yes' when I ask him certain things to see if he remembers anything from when he was 'out'. My father has been treated as a 'throw-away' patient in the ICU because he is 72 and has a brain injury. A few of his nurses never even bothered to get the back-story and did not know that he worked for a month with a chronic subdural bleed after his original concussion, that he is ridiculously healthy and active and strong in real life. That he beat terminal cancer 24 years ago when told he had 3 months to live and is tough as nails and has an incredible will to live. That he was put into a coma by his neurologist, he didn't go into a coma because of his injury. They treated him (and us) like he was a hopeless case, a vegetable. We were actually told by one nurse that his treatment was a waste of time when his neurologist ordered an EEG. Why? How hard is it to just do an EEG without sharing your opinion on whether or not you think it is necessary?

The biggest thing I have learned is that it is not up to us to cast judgment on a family's choices for their loved ones. It is not up to us to share our opinion or use diagnostic or prognostic language. Our job is to support patients and their families wherever they are at, nothing more than that. The grief, the reality, the anguish and doom, and gloom will take care of itself, trust me. We don't need to add to it. I know nursing is hard physically and emotionally. I know nurses get 'burn-out' and are privy to emotionally intense situations that might 'numb' us, or cause us to jump to conclusions in other situations. But acknowledging this is not good enough. It's not ok, regardless of the reasons.

I will never again judge anyone for not signing a DNR. I will never again judge anyone for any decision they make at any time. People do what they need to do at any given moment and it is up to us to be advocates for them. I know there are those who will say 'save those feelings for when you are in the nurses' station, or in the staff room'. I would challenge that. I would say, suspend those feelings entirely until it becomes a part of you. Stop them in their tracks. Do not attach judgment. Just be the support that the family needs.

I went to my graduation this past week and cried as I crossed the stage because my dad should have been there to see me. I also felt guilty for being there because I was not sure he was getting the care he needed while I was 4h away. I did not trust his nurses to care for him without me there advocating. It occurred to me again and again that this should never be the case. Nurses should ALWAYS be our advocates. I have not felt that yet during this experience. I have told the nurse-manager of the ICU this. I shudder to think of the patients whose families do not know enough to advocate for their loved ones.

And my dad? He is slowly making a recovery, is awake and is starting to move his body, his arms, and legs. His eyes open, and when his trach was plugged he spoke his first words to my mother in over a month- she told him she couldn't wait to get him home to his own bed. His response? 'What are we waiting for?' followed by a chuckle. He moves his arms and legs and tries to sit up. I asked him if he was doing this because he was uncomfortable. He said no. Through a series of yes and no questions (he can nod 'yes' and 'no'), we deduced that he is, in fact, doing his 'exercises'. He wants to get out of his bed, and he will. He affirms he is bored and wants to catch up on 'Mad Men'. He does math problems in his mind to stimulate his brain (my dad is a genius and can solve ridiculously complicated calculus problems in his head for 'fun'). The floor is abuzz with the news of my dad's awakening. He is surprising everyone.

All of this from a man who we were told would not survive, and his life was not worth the effort we were making.

As nurses, this is not up to us to decide, and it most certainly should not have an impact on the care we provide.

Anna L


Acute care RN; from CA

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Specializes in LTC, Hospice, Case Management.

I'm sorry but this is very hard to read. Any chance you can edit to a different font/size (no need to be obnoxious - just something more standard). Please/thank you

sorry- I copied and pasted it from another place- didn't realize how small it was!

Specializes in LTC, Hospice, Case Management.
sorry- I copied and pasted it from another place- didn't realize how small it was!

Hey thanks. My tired old eyes appreciate it.

Specializes in Complex pedi to LTC/SA & now a manager.

I can totally relate. You have no idea the horrible things that were said by "professional" nurses to and around my mother. They were a bit more careful around me because I had no problem calling them out on their rudeness. The good nurses helped provide my mother with the information and resources she needed to make treatment decisions. . Kudos to you for standing by your father. And best wishes for your father on his progress towards recovery.

Specializes in LTC, Hospice, Case Management.

Ok, now I've read your post. Hugs to you for this long uphill battle and keep on advocating for your Dad. Hopefully he will continue to make progress and eventually return to his own home. Best wishes

I hope that your father makes a full recovery without complications and can continue his "old life" and go on his merry way. When a doctor once told our family that my grandmother would not live at the age of 88 and we should just stop all treatment and let her die, I asked him who made him God. She still had brain function. Yes, she did was HELL for her to learn to walk again and she was angry that she had to use a walker for safety everywhere that she went. Eventually she wanted to return to her own home and live by herself. We made an agreement that if she would get lifeline and promise to be safe she could finally go home. She lived 11 years and died 4 months shy of her 100th birthday. The week before she died, I went to visit her and she said something that alerted me. She said, "You know, I've lived a long time and I'm getting tired. I think I'd like to go home now" She said that on a Saturday and the following Friday she had an AMI and died before the paramedics could get her to the hospital. I think she did it her way and on her terms. You are right, not for anyone else to decide. If it's meant to be it will happen, and all judgement should be left up to God....Sorry for your experience with calloused and uncaring health care providers, but ultimately he is surviving because he is supposed to survive and for that you can celebrate!

i hear you there. last week, an 'intensivist' who never actually laid eyes on my dad decided he was to be sent to the medical floor and out of the ICU. He had pneumonia at the time, and we had just discovered bilateral blood clots in his legs (he can't be on anti-coagulants because of his bleeding on the brain, so they ended up inserting a 'basket'). I very calmly told her that she would have to roll my dad's bed over my cold dead body. Shortly thereafter the neurologist came and shredded her transfer order, as he did not yet feel my dad was suitable for a general medical floor. It left me wondering how many patients fall through these cracks??

Specializes in Operating Room.

My grandmother was a tough lady- she didn't want to sign a DNR. When asked if she wanted us to call her priest, she replied that she didn't need him yet.I agree that nurses need to keep their opinions to themselves when it comes to patient and family choices. OP, I will keep your dad and you in my prayers, and give him a big thumbs up from this nurse, who thinks that he's awesome.

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

Your comments come from your emotionally distraught heart, and I can appreciate that.

They do not particularly relate to nursing.

Your father's "medically-induced coma", to use a lay term, was continuous sedation ordered for brain rest or some other rationale. Nurses administered that continuous sedation.

I'm sorry that the interventions "mean nothing to you" and that all you've taken away from a month-long up close encounter with critical care was that you only want nurses to "advocate". We do advocate - including sometimes opening up discussion on whether or not the plan of care and the prognosis driving it need to be altered.

Wishing your dad a recovery that meets his expectations.

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

I am sorry you are going through this and my prayers for you dad's full recovery. I experienced this with my dad although my outcome was not a good one.

My Dad was 80. A work horse all his life. He had rheumatic fever when he was young and had subsequent heart damage. He had a valve repair and CABG at age 70 finally for his valves and re mapping of his coronaries. He did well......for having a bad heart. My dad finally retired at age 75 because he was forced he continued to Walk at least 3 miles a day. IN November of 2008 he started experiencing renal insufficiency fro longstanding heart/HTN issues. He began experiencing confusion. He fell in February on 2009 and was hospitalized for urinary infection.

His care was poor. If I heard that we needed to recognize that my father was 80 I was going to hurt someone. I Flew in to find my dad face first in his lunch tray with a glucose of 40.....with his footies on his bedside tray/stand and dry skin all over the top, gait belt cinched around his waist. My father was a work horse and if you asked him how he was he would tell you fine even if he was holding his severed limb. His renal function deteriorated his confusion increased....his LOC decreased. I will never forget the day the dialysis tech was talking to me at the bedside and made some comment about if they had to be on dialysis they would rather be dead and that they wouldn't wish these treatment on their worse enemy. What the????? I found him with OR monitor patches after "his best bath ever" and still covered in betadine made me mad. That his IV srsg wasn't changed for several days until I complained frustrated and disappointed me.

Dialysis worked he cleared wlaked around his room unassisted One day he was due treatment. The tech couldn't get the cap off the VAC cath she took two hemostats and torqued the cap.....fracturing the hub, making it now unusable. I was assured he'd be fine. He was 80 and it was the weekend...the cath could wait til Monday. His labs weren't that bad. Besides he is 80. My Dad was fine, he was a member of mensa. He walked 2 miles just days prior to admission.

My Dad coded that night.......we removed him from life support the next day. I miss him everyday.

A very good reminder to all. My wishes for a full recovery for your

Dad...what a man!