Who was the last patient to just break your heart?

Nurses General Nursing


  • Specializes in PICU now, Peds and med-surg in the past.

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Specializes in LTC, Psych, Hospice.

Working in hospice, I've had many pts touch me. Several years ago, I took care of an AIDS pt who was in her early 30's. She was funny and we discovered that we had many things in common. We always tried to see who could make the other laugh more. I remember one Friday afternoon, sitting in her room with her and her mama and she told me that she wouldn't be here on Monday. I knew exactly what she was talking about. Hard as I tried, I couldn't stop the tears welling up in my eyes. She looked her straight in the eyes and said, "Stop that crying. You're just jealous because come Monday, I'll be with Jesus and you have to go to work." She died that Sunday morning.

Another pt I had was in her mid twenties w/ colon CA. She had a 5 y/o daughter and was living with her mother. Our MSW had been working very hard with the child and rest of the family to prepare them for the pt death. I will never forget the morning she died, it was about 5 a.m. when I arrived at the home. The little girl met me at the door and said, "Ms. Sharon! It was beautiful! The angels came and got my mama and they told me not to cry." I had goose bumps.

Thank you, OP, for starting this thread.

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 2,543 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.

First, I must say thank you to the OP for starting this thread.

My mother died from Renal Small Cell Cancer 13 years ago. Two years after she passed, I had gotten a pt in the PACU with the same thing. He was recovering from a nephrectomy and was in an incredible amount of pain. He had tears running down his eyes, but a smile on his face because he was simply happy that he had survived the surgery. I had to take a step back, and then I just gave up and cried with him. I got the surgeon to change his PCA order from MSO4 to Dilaudid, and he finally got some relief. He was grunting with pain, but smiling and crying the whole time. It was difficult to handle.

Recently, I had a soldier home on leave that had gotten in to an MVA. He was brain dead. His young wife consented to an organ donation. As I was rolling him from the SICU to the OR, his wife was clinging to the bed, sobbing as 30 formally dressed soldiers followed behind her, all of them crying. They took up the entire hallway, and let me tell you, you could hear a pin drop. We had to physically but gently pry her hands off of the railings to the bed. I could hardly see through my own tears. The only ray of light that I could offer her is that his right kidney went to another soldier while the other went to a pediatric patient. Both of them lived because of her husband and her brave decision.

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 2,543 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.
Patients do not break my heart....that's reserved for the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband :)

I would love to not identify closely with patients. My job would be easier. Call me a bleeding heart, but I cry with some of them. I suppose I am just very passionate about my job, and very passionate about patient care. I am not saying at all that you are not, I just wish that I could "divorce" my emotions when I run across a particularly sad and heart wrenching patient or situation.


68 Posts

Specializes in PICU now, Peds and med-surg in the past.

Canesdukegirl, your stories were so touching and the story of that poor soldier gave me goosebumps and brought tears to me. Thanks to all of those who are contributing their thoughts and stories - so many days I think alot of us will wondering for a split second why we do what we do and these are some of the stories, sad as they can be, that make me think all the stuff we go through is worth it and meaningful.


4 Posts

I work as a PCT in a general ICU. The one that stands out in my mind happened several years ago and gives me chills to this day when I think about it. We had a younger dad (late 40s I believe) and I don't remember what brought him into the ICU but he deteriorated rapidly and family was at his bedside for several days. He had two teenage daughters and they were having a very hard time dealing with his impending death. He was a full code for those last couple of days and I know he was coded 2 or 3 times during my shifts. Family decided to make him DNR and there were probably 20 people at his bedside when he went down the last time.

I remember standing in the middle of our pod listening to the daughters scream "No daddy no daddy don't die we need you" for the entire length of time it took for him to pass. NO ONE had dry eyes and most of us were openly crying listening to their pain. That one will stay with me forever.

shoegalRN, RN

1,338 Posts

I worked the floor one weekend and had the cutest patient. He was in his mid 50's and had liver cancer. His SBP would not get any higher than 80, even with fluids going.

He also had dysphagia and couldnt eat much.

We were talking in his room and he told me this "I really want a hotdog like they serve at the ball park. You know the one with relish and mustard and onions? And all I really want to do is go fishing one last time".

The next morning I got off and I drove straight to the store to get this man a hotdog. I packed up a lunch and added mustard, relish, and onions on the side. I went up to the floor the next day and suprised him with the hotdog. He was so excited! He took two bites and couldnt eat anymore. He even offered to pay me for the hotdog. I told him I will not accept his money and if I had a way, I would take him fishing and I don't fish. He gave me a hug and I could feel every bone in his body. Later that week he was transferred to ICU. I don't know how he's doing or if he even made it, but I'm glad he got that last hotdog he was craving.

Specializes in Emergency Midwifery.

Two years ago as a midwifery student baby J graced us with his brief existence. J was as beautiful as could be with dark curls and the brightest blue eyes. He was also the sickest little baby I had come across so far. I remember helping with his respirations while his stared into my eyes. We stabilised him and transferred him for specialist care. He slipped quietly away in his fathers arms 3 months later.

A week ago his father comes into my care in a desperate state still haunted by the images of his dying son.

Sleep tight baby J.


5 Posts

On my last day of work....I felt like I was living a Grey's Anatomy episode......and bawling! I had this beautiful woman 58 y/o. She had just gotten back from vacation with her husband a few days earlier, came home, took a shower, ordered pizza and watched some tv. The next they knew, she was screaming and had a horrible headache. They rushed her to the nearest hospital....did a CT which showed brain hemorrhage and rushed her to our hospital...straight to the OR for a crainiotomy/evacuation. She declined on the way there .....they did the surgery and family decided comfort care. Of course my night taking care of her being hospice it's their 27 year anniversary....:( 30 family/friends were there camping out.... and the husband was SO strong. He kept telling me stories about how he "never kissed her enough, so he gave her 27 kisses for their anniversay." Then he went in the room and told her that if it was her time....he was willing to let her go to another place. THEN her daughter went in and told her that "it was okay, we'll take care of dad." etc. I was trying to pull myself together.......too many times as nurses we see our patients and "patients" and not people. When we get a glimpse into their lives as people.....well that's when I lost it!

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