July 31, 2011

Dealing with grief

Today I spent the day shadowing another nurse on the unit. She was absolutely wonderful about taking the time to explain everything to me, and teach me as much as she could. It was hectic and crazy right from the start. We only had one patient, who had come to the emergency room just a few hours earlier. His only complaint was shortness of breath. Within an hour, he declined so quickly he had to have an endotracheal tube placed and was put on a vent. When we received report, we had learned that he had pneumonia, and a suspected pulmonary embolism that was later ruled out. He was on maximum support on the vent and was receiving 100 percent oxygen. Despite this, his O2 sats were only in the 60's and stayed that way all day. He was septic and despite all of our interventions, he was getting worse. I felt sad for this man while helping to provide his care. I wondered if he could hear us despite the sedation, or how aware he could possibly be of what was happening to him. I wondered if he was uncomfortable. He was not expected to survive.

Many family members came to see him. I watched the nurse as she spoke to the family. I observed the reactions and listened to what all the family members had to say. One thing was said frequently by many, "But he was fine yesterday", "But he just said yesterday how well he felt". The wife, the brother, the sister, the niece, the son in law. They all said the same thing. I saw the shock on their faces. Their pain was so intense, you could feel it along with them. It was in the air around you. It was hard to witness this. I had to look away when the teenage granddaughter sobbed. It was so unexpected to all of the family, and in my opinion, that makes it all the harder to deal with.

I was on that side of hospital bed 15 years ago. My mother had a horrible accident that put her in the intensive care unit for approximately 5 months. She was not expected to survive either. Driving home after my shift, I cried. I cried for that man, I cried for his family, and I cried for my mom. I briefly questioned whether or not I was strong enough to do this. But I know I am. This is why I became a nurse, so I could help others in their time of need. I need to recognise that I'm human, that I have emotions, and that it is ok to feel these things, and cry if I need to. I called my grandma, and told her about my day. She cried a little with me, as we both remembered what my mother went through. She told me she was proud of me, and that  my mom is watching over me and that she is proud of me too. I felt better after talking to grandma, it was just what I needed.

The man was transferred to another hospital. I will probably never know if he pulled through.


rnraquel said...

I am so sorry you lost your Mom. My Mom died 5 years ago, and I still miss her so much. I hope my Mom is watching over me too and is proud of me too. That is a very comforting thought.
I'm sure your personal experiences with grief will make you an even better nurse to those families of your patients.

NP Odyssey said...

Sorry about the lose of your mother.
That is a was a heart whelming story and reminded me of my father dying in 2004. It was quick with a diagnosis of cancer. I still have a tough time working with some cancer patients and the memories.
I think I will link your blog.