When you actually ''save'' a life

Healthcare Workers help people everyday. It becomes commonplace, just another ''fact of life'', and we almost forget how lucky we are to be a part of such a noble profession. We work in this noble profession not for the recognition, not for the glory, certainly not for the money. Everyone has their own reason. I do it because I know that what I do really matters, even if those I help don't even know it. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


When you actually ''save'' a life

About 4 or 5 months ago I (the PCT, the hired help, that young guy, the guy that looks like he's new, the Per Diem staff) was floated to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) for half of a shift. About 3 hours into the shift, the Nurse went into a patient's room to find the pt in cardiac arrest. He came to the doorway and exclaimed ''we're calling a code here people!"

I was directly across the hall and was second in the room as the nurse started the first few compressions. I said "I got compressions", and he moved over and went to grab code cart.

This person was alive just minutes ago. It was surreal. For a few seconds it was just me and this Patient. Alone. I'm doing chest compressions,her ribs weren't cracking or grinding. Everyone tells you that you can feel ribs breaking. At that moment it was just me pushing down with my hands together on the center of this woman's chest. Her body slightly jerking with each compression.

This person was alive just minutes ago. It was surreal. The patient was on a ventilator so we only had to do chest compressions, the breathing was taken care of. In what seemed like ten seconds, there was seven or eight of people in the room.

I see the hand of a nurse sneaking up to place the two electrodes on the patients chest. I remember my CPR instructor telling us, "DO NOT STOP COMPRESSIONS- Let them work around you" so I just kept going, I remember the nurse going to push epinephrine. After two electrical shocks, her heart was now beating again. She had a second chance.

About 20 minutes later I was re-floated back to my normal unit (physical rehab) and finished my shift. I didn't work again for two weeks, during that time I had dreams about this patient, the code, and doing chest compressions.

I knew that we had saved the patient at that time, but after I finished my shift, I had no idea what happened to the patient. This patient may have died the next morning, and I had no way of knowing.

It is fairly common that when someone goes into cardiac arrest once, they are likely to arrest again, and again until their body has nothing left, and then they have died.

The next time I worked, I was on the Progressive Care Unit (PCU), which happens to be right down the hall from CCU. I did a little snooping around to see if this patient was still in the hospital (alive).

I got wind from a CCU nurse that the patient was on PCU (where I was floated to!), so I probed some of the nurses and found out which room the Pt was in. I looked into the room and the patient was in the bed, still on a mechanical ventilator, but skinny as a rail. The patient I remember was big (swollen with fluid). This Patient was in restraints and wasn't coherent. If she patient didn't have a very unique condition / wound wouldn't have believed it was really her.

I thought ''Oh well''. I finished my shift. I have seen countless people on ventilators that will likely never be themselves again, out doing what they love with those they love. It's a part of our profession.

Five months pass and the memory of this patient is gone, sent off to my brain's filing department to be entered into the "Patient's I'll never forget Folder".

My life continues as normal.

Last Monday I'm back on my Physical Rehab unit and am looking through my 4 or 5 Patients' Charts and I see a patient's history with this same unique diagnosis / wound!

I'm thinking ''no Freaking way"

I go into the room and see my Patient, months later is doing well (alive is better than dead right?). The tracheotomy is healed up, the wound has healed, that one amputated toe is still....amputated...

The Patient has no idea who I am, but I know all to much about her. I considered telling her about our history, but I chose not to.

Everyday Nurses help people feel better, get better, deal with their biggest fears and how their life may never be the same. This becomes routine. At the end of the day we know that we have helped people, but we don't FEEL like we've helped people

It wasn't until I saw this patient's progression from being on the cusp of death, to the edge of moving on with her life, that I really understood how we can really make a difference.

And she'll never even know who I am. I don't want special recognition, I don't want hero status or an award. I know in my heart that what we did matters, and that's all a part of nursing.


375 Posts

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45 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

What a great story and so true it gaveme chills reading it.


6 Posts

Great story :)

Well you definitely made an impact in my life by seeing how humble nurses can be. You patient may not know

what you did, but you know, and that's all that matters. The more you give, you get back ten times over.

God Bless you and I know an angel is on your shoulder watching every thing you do for people.

Satori77, ADN

516 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg/Ortho.

That brought tears to my eyes!


138 Posts

Thank you. I have even a stronger reason to keep my passion for nursing alive, as well as my compassion for my patients.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

1 Article; 20,908 Posts

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

The reason I have always loved being a nurse.

Well said!!!!


164 Posts

Wow, what a great story. I felt similarly about a patient once. I didn't have to do CPR or anything. But when I was on my clinical rotation in the ICU there was this man who was on a ventilator and the nurse I was with said she didn't expect him to make it. We took care of him and I helped bathe him and turn him. About a month later while I was working as a tech on my floor (med-surg) in the same hospital, he was there and was alert and on the mend. He was confused and his toes were black and were going to be amputated. But I remember thinking how amazing it was that he made it so far. Not as cool of a story as yours, but it still resonated with me.


3 Posts

Wow Amazing!!


3 Articles; 272 Posts

Specializes in SICU.

We bring a lot of patients back to be vegetables and die. We also bring a lot of people back to go back to living their normal lives. It's usually hard to tell within the first 12 hours s/p code, but it's definitely shocking when you see someone who was dead a few days or weeks ago up and walking the halls. Good story!


159 Posts

What a great story, I got goosebumps. Thank you for sharing. :snurse:


39 Posts

Bravo! I love the fact that you are so humble! Your testimony was very inspirational. Stay blessed.

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