The Patient I Failed

I met her one Tuesday night, and spent that night pouring Jevity into her tube, only to suction it back out. Her legs were cool and mottled, her bowel sounds were non-existent, and her blue eyes stared blindly at a ceiling she could no longer see. The MD refused to terminate feedings, but I held them since there was no digestion taking place. The woman was turned and repositioned every 2 hours, and each time, she moaned and gurgled as her lungs slowly filled with fluid. I whispered my apologies as I did the very things to her she tried so hard to prevent. Nurses Relations Article


You are reading page 3 of The Patient I Failed

Chaya, ASN, RN

932 Posts

Specializes in Rehab, Med Surg, Home Care.


Just. Wow.

i'am soooooooo sorry that you have to go thru this, it's hard enough that you being a nurse, and know what is going to happen d/t what your mom is going thru, is not enough, that your sister has "all" the power over your moms life:banghead:, since you can't do anything, please hang in there for your mom sake and make her last days seem worth while . i will be praying for you !!!:icon_hug:


20 Posts

Specializes in ER, CVICU.

I just have to echo that this was a beautifully written piece. As others have said, you are not the one who failed her.

I went through a similar situation this past semester, only it was the wife of the patient controlling everything. Looking into my patient's eyes and seeing him mouth that he wanted the "stuff" out of him, yet being powerless to do anything about it broke my heart.


18 Posts

Specializes in all kinds- intensive care my most.

what a touching story. I have seen this some many many times in my career. It is so difficult for us sometimes to watch as family members struggle with their goodbyes (however long they may take). I luckily work with some wonderful doctors now who are patient advocates. They are always quick to approach those subjects with families/patients. They are also willing to talk and LISTEN to what they have to say. There are still times though when what WE want for our patients is not what they get. I think we see things that others never see, and have a very different perspective on life and death.

I used to think that death was the worst thing that could ever happen to you, but have seen that the prolonging of death is sometimes much worse.

wonderfully written. thanks.

jschut, BSN, RN

2,743 Posts

What a touching story... and how beautifully written...


61 Posts

very poignant and well written. Kudos to you for putting into words what so many of us think but are unable to articulate without pure anger.


48 Posts

Specializes in Pediatric ED;previous- adult Ortho/Neuro.

Thank you for sharing such a heart wrenching story. Thank you for being the kind of nurse to do what was in your power to uphold the dignity of the patient. Sadly, as many have already said, this happens far too often, and each time we see a family's struggle is just as hard as the last. I work in peds, and have seen many tough situations. The only thing harder than letting go of a parent is letting go of a child. I see so many kids with no quality of life, and every medical intervention available keeping them alive. Granted, I have never had my own child in that situation, but it breaks my heart to see lifeless eyes behind the tangle of tubes and machines, and they haven't even been alive long enough to know that they wouldn't want to live that way. =(


1 Post

What a great message. I've been there several times with ignorant family members. The worse part is transferring a patient back and forth between the ICU, med/surg, telemetry, and a hospice unit as the family wishes changes at the whims of the several children who can't get their act together. Sooner or later something pushes the doctors, social workers, hospital attorney, and ethics committee to meet and stop the merry-go-round. We can care, but we can't stop the madness.

That was a great article I was in the same situation with my father almost 14 years ago with all the heroics being done since everyone knew him. We finally made the decision to remove him from life support later that night the following morning he was still alive and kicking so we moved him to a special room and waited 3 more days before he finally passed surrounded early one morning surrounded by his loving family.You did your best for the patient, the daughter and the physician failed her in more ways than one. They didn't even take into consideration the living will she made out for herself.


12 Posts

WOW! Thank you for this article. It was well written, very vivid and realistic. I was really touched by it. :redpinkhe

It opened everyone's eyes regarding death and dying as inevitable, it will come, no matter how we find ways to deny it.


15 Posts

As a Nurse with 24yrs experience very little reduces me to tears but this did. Thank you for sharing your experience.:heartbeat

Cyndi Cramer

2 Posts

We see this all too often!

That is why EVERYONE needs to fill out an Advance Directive--and make sure you choose your surrogate wisely!!

The person that loves you the most may not be able to fulfill your wishes...

We have been doing extensive education for our staff at my hospital (Tampa General Hospital) using the ELNEC curriculum (End of Life Nursing Education Consortium)

We call our graduates of our 25 hr/3 day course PCRN's (Palliative Care Resource Nurse) and PCRP's (Palliative Care Resource Professional). They are all over the hospital (we have over 200 so far and will have even more after our classes this fall + non-staff who have attended and are bringing this concept to their facilities) and they advocate for patients & families and reach out to staff and physicians with Palliative Care education.


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