I stepped out into the hallway. She began yelling at me. “Why aren’t you saving them?! Why aren’t you doing something? Save them!” I had already talked with the family. There was nothing more to do. I had worked for hours. She blamed me.
I stood there and she continued to yell at me. I bowed my head. The elevator doors opened. I stepped in, away. The patient died.
* * *
The patient was going to code. I knew that the moment they arrived. I told the family. Told them there was little we could do. They wanted everything done. They hoped for a miracle. I worked for hours. The room was full; family and staff. We had been waiting for the heart to stop, to initiate CPR. It stopped. We started. For a good while I ran the code. It was efficient, streamline, well-oiled. Great staff that night. One of the best codes in a long while. But the ACLS cycles were not profitable. The rounds were unproductive. I told the family two more rounds and I would stop. One round. Two rounds. I stopped the code. The family member stood up. Eyes pleading, begged me for one more round, said they’d pay for it, just one more round.
I felt the room of 20+ people all staring at me. Deafening silence. I don’t understand the money side of it, I don’t understand insurance. We had already spent the money on a 2nd crash cart, it wasn’t empty. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the patient. Seconds felt like hours. All the staff looked at me, knowing it was futile, but waiting on my word and they would restart, reluctantly, but they would. All the family looked at me with unyielding hope and desperation, desperate for one more round, two more minutes of work.
No. We’re done. I said. The family member threw their body on the patient. Cries rang out. Staff quietly left the room. I stood there, bowed my head. Tears stung my eyes. Moments later, I left.
* * *
They were much too young. Yet there they sat, alone, trying to make decisions for their dying parent. They called a sibling, they were even younger. They talked. The entire thing was horrific. I had spent hours in that room. There were things I could do but they would be futile. The patient wasn’t strong enough. The family member said no. They decided to stop.
As we stood in that room with the ugly truth, my work phone rang. I stepped to the side. Another patient was crashing. I gave the nurse some stat orders. Told her I would be bedside within 10 minutes or so.
As I hung up the phone I looked at that young person sitting alone and noted them staring at me with horrified eyes and a confused look upon their face. Is this what you do? They asked. Do you only take care of dying people?
The parent died. I so deeply hurt for that child.
* * *
I once watched a movie. Overall, it wasn’t a very good movie. A woman found herself in a war torn part of the world and she was reporting on events there. Time passed and she had been there for years. Events occurred and she didn’t really respond anymore. She talked with a friend and the friend said, you know this isn’t normal. How we live and what’s going on here. This isn’t normal. The woman realized it had become normal to her. Bombs and death and horror. It had stopped affecting her, she didn’t respond anymore. So, she left. She went home. She started to feel again.
I think about this movie often. Remind myself that my life isn’t normal. Watching people experience the worst parts of their life on a weekly basis isn’t normal.
In time I won’t remember these horrific events. I don’t remember the patients or the families. New horrific events will take their place and in time new ones will take theirs.
Not so long ago, a nurse told me I cared too much. This may be true. I often find my eyes sting with tears. My heart heavy.
When it’s over, they always hug me, they always say thank you. Even the angry ones. I have learned that I need to receive their hugs and their words as much as they need to give them. I have found them to be a comfort to me. I suppose when it stops comforting me is when I will need to leave.