The First Patient I Cared For

I believe that my experience with my father made me able to better care for my patients and their families, especially at the end of their lives. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

The First Patient I Cared For

In 2003, my parents moved from Maryland to New Jersey. They were looking forward to the move. They were right across the river from NYC, my mother had accepted a great job, and they were excited about being able to go to the Broadway shows, dine out, etc.

My father was a retired Air Force Major, and a former Operations Officer for Reagan National Airport in D.C. They had four children, including me. Three sons and a girl (me). I had made the move to Norfolk, VA two years before as a result of a job promotion. I was unhappily employed as the manager of an animal hospital after being a veterinary tech for 15+ years.

I hated being stuck behind a desk doing admin stuff, instead of being active in patient care. I was seriously considering a career change and was looking into nursing schools in the area, wanting to stay in medicine, but be at the bedside. I hoped with my already extensive medical background, that the change from animal patients to human patients would be easy.

In May of 2003, my mother called to tell me that my Dad was sick. I knew from her voice that it was bad, but I did not realize how bad it was. She said that my dad had been having flu-like symptoms, and after finally convincing him to see a doctor, they realized that he had a mass in his stomach that was malignant and had metastasized to his liver and kidneys. By the time they found it, it was too late, and was terminal.

My mother needed to work, to keep their health insurance to cover the medical care my father needed, but she did not want him to be alone during the day, and they did not want to use home health care because they wanted to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my fathers last days.

I immediately quit my job and would drive up to NJ every Sunday to care for my father during the work week.

From diagnosis to the day he died (July 14, 2003), I was the primary caregiver for my father. I helped him to get bathed, toileted, dressed. I gave him his meds, I encouraged him to try to take some nutrition. I drove him to his doctor appointments. He talked to me very frankly about his impending death, and how he had no regrets about his life, only worry about my mother after he died.

In the three weeks preceding his death, they discontinued the chemo and set him up with hospice care. The nurse who came was truly an angel in disguise. She was there not only for my father but for the whole family (my brothers and their families would come up on weekends). She helped us through the worst time of our lives. She would monitor his vitals, perform procedures such as abdominocentesis (he had ascites from his dysfunctional liver), and report to his oncologist about his progress. In addition, she helped us cope with the reality of his death.

Seven weeks after being diagnosed, my father passed away. I was with my father through the seven weeks from diagnosis to his death and watched him deteriorate from an active man in the prime of his life, to a being bedridden, and unable to care for himself, or speak to us.

Although at the time, I was not a nurse, my father was my first patient, and the experience confirmed my decision to go back to school and become an RN.

I graduated in May of 2007, and I know my father was there when I received my diploma.


I'm a nurse with 5 years of experience in the Emergency Department.

618 Posts

Share this post