If you’re a nurse, chances are you have had patients who you will remember forever. I definitely have had a few that I will never forget, for good and bad reasons. There’s always the unruly ones that you have to sedate…and then intubate. The quirky ones that ask the strangest questions and do the strangest things, but somehow they grow on you. As a critical care nurse, I will always remember my first open heart, my first code blue, and my first super critical patient on 20 drips, CRRT, pressure control ventilation, chemical paralysis, and IABP. And then, there are the ones that you remember because they touch your heart and change your life. This post is about one patient in particular from 4 years ago, almost to the year.
I often think of this patient and his family. They probably have forgotten about me and probably for good reason. It was not a joyous occasion. For me, it was one of the toughest cases I’ve ever had to manage: mentally, physically, and spiritually. And for the family, it was probably one of their darkest hours.
A man collapsed in a lake and was rushed to the ER. I was the one that brought him to ICU. He was intubated, sedated, and very critical. Through the night, he eventually stabilized hemodynamically. However, over the course of 48 hours, he was not showing any positive neurological signs. His brain had been without oxygen for too long. The family decided to donate his organs to Gift of Hope. After going through this tragic ordeal, his family stated their wish to help others even in the grimmest of situations.
At this point in my life, I had been pretty depressed and shaky on my faith. If rock bottom was a physical place, I was a block away. It took me a while to process all of this, mostly due to sheer exhaustion. ICU burnout…the struggle is real. But, eventually I made it to these conclusions:
- There is life in death. Jesus Christ! Literally. (Some of you may not be Christian, and may not be on the same wavelength as me. That’s cool. I respect that. Just don’t rain on my parade). John 3:16. Overused? Not a chance. Love it.
- What real strength looks like. Those parents made the toughest decision of their lives and did it with grace and strength that I could only wish to scratch the surface of.
- Live with love. Even in the darkest of places, we must fight for the light of love. Cliche? Probably. But it is truth! Living with kindness, goodness, and love won’t let you down.
- How to recalculate from almost rock bottom. It’s all about perspective. You think you have it rough? Feeling sorry for yourself? Well, it could potentially be worse. Be thankful for what you have and who you have.
- Live every day like it could be your last. Granted, I grow accustomed to routine and monotony of life at times. Work, sleep, work, sleep. In the end, however, the little things add up too. Tell someone thanks, go out of your way for someone, or do something spontaneous. Do great things, big or small. Don’t regret. Take life by the horns.
I may have been this patient’s and family’s nurse, but in the end, they really helped me through a dark hour. It feels selfish to write about my epiphanies from this grave situation, but I wish I could tell them how much they helped me too. And I’m so incredibly thankful and humbled.
To quote J.K. Rowling: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” –Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban