Today I remembered a 4 yr old... lifeless, so pale, except for the bruises which covered his body. I remember so vividly the parent who angrily confessed that "the boy just refused to walk right"...so he beat him to death. I thought about the terror that child must have felt just before he lost consciousness.
I remembered the tiny little boys we (PICU RN's) referred to as 'the blues brothers' because of the constant cyanotic spells requiring resuscitation, who all ultimately succumbed to their respective disease states. So many infants born of addicted mothers....left...just left...in the PICU to be cared for by us. No family, ever.
A beautiful, fat, porcelain-skinned six months old transferred to us from the NICU...a graduate they called her. She was physically perfect except for a trach which was, apparently, more than her birth mother could cope with. Her life void of any bonding, this child had developed an aversion to human interaction. Months of patient coaxing finally led to eye contact and then to an earth moving smile from her. In my first work-related nightmare I stole this baby...and then frantically tried to figure out how to return her before getting caught. People ask "how can you keep from getting attached?" We couldn't do our jobs without getting attached.
How many mother's faces I looked into as I laid their already lifeless child in their arms after I took them away from the machines which made them seem alive for a while...sometimes very long whiles. How many times I hurt a child in the name of treatment which we all really knew was futile. Oh my God, that one hurt.
I remember feeling guilty about the joy I felt as one family lost a perfectly healthy child to a GSW to the head because another child would live ...perhaps...even though it would mean a life-long regime of medications, physician visits, lab tests, fear of rejection.
The broken hearts of family members over a brain-dead child due to shaken baby....the sorrow I felt because he really didn't know the consequences of his actions....the rage I felt because a mother lied while her baby was dying because she didn't want to get her boyfriend in trouble for his abuse of that child.
I am thinking how there seems to be an invisible wall which surrounds the bedside of a dying child; all the cacophony of PICU noises dulled by broken hearts and pulled curtains.
So many times I was so angry yet so helpless to make a difference.
Burns, abuse, accidents, mistakes, every disease known to afflict adults, head trauma, heart trauma, multi-trauma, multi-system-organ-failure, limbs lost, lives changed, slow deaths, traumatic deaths, anticipated deaths, unexpected deaths, and deaths which didn't happen; all have taken a toll.
There were miracles, yes. There were triumphs, many.
But today I realize, I am traumatized. I will not return to substance abuse...which is how I suppose I lived through it all. But I am asking for your prayers as I learn how to begin to deal with this realization: We as caregivers must recognize the effects of our caring on ourselves! My husband knew, but couldn't tell me. He said he saw me hugging my own children too tight and too long for their ages.
Thank you all.