Yesterday Was Depressing, And I’m Not Talking About the UT Game

January 8, 2010

Yesterday was my amazing husband’s birthday, and I wanted to make it a happy one for him even though I had to work 12 hours and we aren’t “celebrating” until tonight. I woke up in a great mood, decorated a bit, left his personal gift from me out for him to find when he woke up, and headed to work. He loved the gift and had a great day at work. I was trying to keep in touch with him and be extremely positive, but around noon some things started happening that made it hard for me to do that.

I could draw these stories out and make you cry, because I certainly did, but I don’t want to be gratuitous. So I’ll just tell you in brief. First, I spent almost three hours literally standing at the bedside of a patient with her family, giving medications to keep her comfortable as we watched her die, explaining the process to them as it happened in front of our eyes. Afterwards it was my job to spend some one-on-one time with the body removing the invasive equipment and preparing it to be picked up.

Not thirty minutes after that was taken care of, before I really had any time to mentally process it, the code blue alarm went off. This doesn’t happen often on our unit because patients are usually made DNR by the time their disease gets extremely serious. But for the past year we have been taking care of a 24-year-old girl who was pregnant when she found out she had an inoperable tumor wrapped around her heart. Our unit kind of adopted her, and when her baby was born via C-section at 23 weeks we gave her a baby shower. She’s from New Mexico so she didn’t have any supplies here in Houston at the apartment she’d been renting. I’ve had her picture on my refrigerator for months so I’d remember to pray for her and her family.

Yesterday when the code alarm went off it was because her heart stopped pumping and she stopped responding. Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t in the room at the time so we were forced to do all we could to bring her back. If you have never witnessed a scene such as this in real life, you are blessed. There is no thought of modesty as the clothes are ripped off in order to do CPR and defibrillation. The room is swarming with people while the patient is intubated, chest pounded, and stuck with needles. I was one of the first ones there so I ended up being the one pushing medications, applying the heart paddles, and when her IV needle pulled out I had to insert a new one as fast as possible.

We finally got in touch with her mother after almost thirty minutes of CPR with no response at all from the patient, and her mother told us not to continue. She was gone. We quickly cleaned her, removed the tubes and wires, and closed her eyes. Then we went outside and took turns hugging her mother and crying with her. I couldn’t cry long though, because my other patients needed me, and they needed me to be happy as usual, as if nothing had happened.

An hour later I was on my way home to watch UT lose. I wish they would have won, mostly because it meant a lot to my husband, but after the day I had it didn’t seem as important as it had that morning.

I didn’t intend to write this much, but I guess I just needed to get it out. Nurses grieve for their patients, and this is part of me moving on. I hope I can put it away for the rest of the day and give my husband the birthday celebration that he deserves.

Posted in: personal

Comments on Yesterday Was Depressing, And I’m Not Talking About the UT Game

  1. 1

    From Tabaitha Kaye:

    I’ll be praying for their families and for you. It’s never easy and you are such a testimony to these families. My heart aches for them this morning and I’m sorry your day was rough. I hope the celebration for David’s birthday will be very special for you tonight.

  2. 2

    From Kelly:

    My husband is a nurse, so I know that you have one of the most difficult, but amazing jobs. Not everyone can do what you do, but I can only imagine how much your dedication and compassion mean to your patients and their families.

    I hope you’re having a better day. :)

  3. 3

    From Lauren From Texas:

    Oh Kathleen. That was so heart-wrenching, yet you put it so beautifully. You are my hero. You are making such a difference in the lives (and sometimes last moments) of these patients, and you are flesh & blood to their families, someone who can talk to them and let them know you care. Your career choice is so admirable. My heart goes out to you & their families as y’all grieve. Trust in God & lean on Him for His perfect peace right now. Much love.

  4. 4

    From Krista:

    Sending virtual hugs in your direction. You are a hero to so many families and your compassion makes all the difference during these difficult times. Remember to take care of yourself too!

  5. 5

    From Chelsea:

    Oh I’m so sorry! You are such a wonderful person- I know that’s not what you want to hear or why you wrote this. But I think that what you do is brave and admirable. I think I’m too selfish to have a job like that. I’ll be praying for you and the families you dealt with.

    I hope you have a sense of peace tonight so you’re able to focus on your husband. I’ll be at dinner with my parents and Stephen’s parents tonight to celebrate Stephen’s birthday- his is tomorrow.

  6. 6

    From David:

    Oh love, please don’t go worrying about my goofy birthday when you have to mourn two patients in one day. The only gift I ever need is you coming home to me every night. I love you and I am so grateful that your patients families are able to be loved and ministered to by you in their darkest hours. I know first hand that your love is capable of such calming and comforting in the worst of times. I love you.

  7. 7

    From Amy --- Just A Titch:

    I honestly don’t know how you manage doing what you do, but all I could think of during this was how lucky those families and patients are to have YOU, a compassionate, caring, spiritual woman taking care of them. You are a blessing to them indeed.

  8. 8

    From SoMi's Nilsa:

    Nurses who choose to work with dying populations are my personal heroes. Your work is incredibly hard. If only your patients could thank you when all is said and done. That said, it’s clear you’re a compassionate nurse – there’s a lot to be said for that. Good thing you have a great husband who appreciates you, even on your down days.

  9. 9

    From Cio:

    You don’t even have to say everything that happened, but I immediately know what kind of energy that environment is. I’m also the kind of person who cries when I see someone else cry. I worked in a hospital (in X-ray) for a little over a year, and I saw my fair share of heartbreaking stories (i’m certain they’re probably not to your level). These stories stay with you for years to come, though.
    Beth moore once said that a lot of times when we (or the family) sees a loved one “go home”, the amount of tears we’re able to cry tells us the depth to which we love them. Glory to God. Don’t be afraid of that. Don’t be afraid to weep with those who weep, or rejoice with those who rejoice. That means we’re still in there livin’. We’re still in there livin’.
    You’re doing what God has called us to do, which is to love, and serve. I admire you deeply for that. I pray that you continue to grow, with strength and love, as you work in this environment.
    Stay strong sister. : )

  10. 10

    From nic:

    Kat, I’m so sorry — what a heartbreaking kind of day. Thinking of you.

  11. 11

    From Ro Manalo:

    Just want to echo what everyone’s said here. You are an amazing human being. God’s grace, peace, and strength be with you always.

  12. 12

    From Girl w/the Red Hair:

    I am so grateful for you and others like you. Your job is extremely difficult but you do it every day and without you – and so many others like you – a lot of people that are still alive probably wouldn’t be. So, thank you. And I’m sorry to hear about your day; that makes any “bad” day I’ve ever had majorly pale in comparison.

  13. 13

    From mediumcrazy:

    Well that was hard to even read about so I can’t imagine how hard it much be to witness. I hope you were able to read, relax and recover this weekend!

  14. 14

    From Kyla Roma:

    Oh my goodness, it just sounds so exhausting trying to care for everyone. I’m sorry you didn’t get to have the day you wanted. You are so strong, and I…. I just can’t imagine, miss.

    I heard someone talking on the radio a few days ago about emotional labour at work, and how it can really wear you right through. This sounds like….you need a hug. I wish I could give you one.


  15. 15

    From steph anne:

    Wow, I don’t know how you could do that – you’re definitely brave & a hero to all of us because you make a difference in our lives. I admire you for having to put on a brave smile & face especially after that for your other patients. Tons of love your way!

  16. 16

    From Emily Jane:

    I echo everything everyone’s said about you being a hero – this was just heart wrenching and your strength and compassion in this job are incredible. Sending prayers to you and the families in this tough time. <3

  17. 17

    From Nora:

    If I ever have to watch a family member or friend go through their final days in a hospital, I hope that a nurse such as yourself is present. I can’t possibly imagine what you see day in and day out but I admire you in so many ways.

    It takes a true angel and person of strength to be a nurse and it’s clear from this post that you are one of these angels.

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