Thanksgiving with My Number One Patient

How a home health nurse spent a very memorable Thanksgiving. Nurses General Nursing Article


Thanksgiving with My Number One Patient

As the holidays approached and the news of Covid started to give some hope for the holidays, many people I know started making plans to celebrate in every single way possible. I did, too. One weekend with my current work circle, another with my other nurse friends, one with my neighbors, Christmas eve with family and in-laws, Christmas day with just our little family of four, and of course, Thanksgiving before everything else.

I began planning for my work schedule months before. I took advantage of requesting days I knew I'd be busy, and boy, I'm so glad I did! My new boss granted my requests as if my entire world depended on it.

Thanksgiving happened and my teenager was excited to have her cousins visit for the week. She had a list of activities planned on how she would spend her week-long break just being free in the safest place possible: our home. Or so we thought it is.

I was waiting for a phone call from a doctor's office about a patient having issues with her suprapubic catheter while I was preparing her wound vac supplies when my phone started frantically ringing. I knew it wasn't the doctor's office based on the ring tone, so I let it go into voicemail and I'm pretty sure whoever was calling would leave me a message. The ringing stopped and another call came shortly thereafter. No voicemail. They'll call back, I thought. Because I was doing wound care and I wasn't expecting any other phone call, I went on to dedicate my time to my patient to complete yet another masterfully done wound vac dressing. No other calls came through and I was not distracted by anything else after the two calls I deliberately missed. After taking care of ten other wounds and checking her colostomy, I sanitized and left to head to my car to move on to my next patient.

I checked my phone as I hopped into my car. It was a call from home. I thought it was odd that my family would call me on my work phone. Oh, you guessed it! They have been unsuccessful trying to reach me on my personal cell and were desperate to talk. What made it even more odd was the fact that some of the calls came from my brother. No detailed voicemail. Just "call me." I decided to call him, and his silence was what caused me to feel shaky. Have you ever experienced talking to someone who didn't want to be the bearer of bad news? It was that kind of silence. I threatened to hang up, so he mustered the courage to ask me if I could come home soon. It took him a little bit more beating-around-the-bush before he told me that my teenage daughter had a little accident at home, hitting the left corner of her lower lip against a metal corner of one of our gym equipment, and it cut through and through. No one told my husband because he would freak out at the sight of blood, especially on our daughter. 

I called work to let them know I had a few patients that needed to be covered and told them my daughter needed me. Luckily, I was assured they would be able to assign other nurses to see my remaining patients.

I drove home as if I teleported, not knowing how I safely arrived. I saw my daughter bandaged on the lip after my brother, also a nurse, used whatever he could find at home to tape her lips. I took a peek and I wish I should have not. I regret having to assess my daughter for such a traumatic wound.  It broke my heart to pieces. I felt sorry for having to be a nurse to my own daughter. It was a different kind of compassion... something more profound. For what it's worth, she was very calm and even managed to smile. I took her to emergency where she ended up with three stitches on the front and another three inside.

All I could think of was the pain she would have to suffer and the sutures on her lips while we would all gather and take pictures on Thanksgiving. Being the fighter that she is (she was born 2lbs and 2oz at 25weeks, and spent the first three months of her life in the NICU), she put her head on my shoulder and wrapped her arms around me, telling me she was OK. I looked at her as she said, "so mom, now we have a Thanksgiving story to share for many years and just like many old stories, it'll be something we'll share and just laugh about one day. She turned what I thought was a freak accident into a story to be shared for generations. I wish I have the same kind of courage, but I'm very happy she does.

A nurse by profession, a writer at heart, a dreamer in spirit. Rholyns is currently working as a home health nurse, keeping a decade of experience in behavioral health. She had a little unofficial stint in the NICU after her two preemies spent the first three months of their lives there, ten years apart.

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Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

So glad that she was okay! And you're right that it will be a holiday story for many years. 

Specializes in MS,Cardiac,Post-Trauma Surgical,Ortho,PACU/Preop.

She's a trooper. I'm glad she's okay. That will be a story to tell for years to come.