Friday, April 3, 2009

Life is Unpredictable

So, I had to work the last couple of days, and what a hard couple of days they turned out to be. For the sake of making the days go by quickly, I offered to take one of the sicker patients on the unit, not expecting to be sending her off to the morgue the next day. But that is what I did. 

Sometimes, this life just baffles me, takes me by surprise, downright floors me. I have been a nurse for five years, and have worked in the pediatric intensive care unit even longer. I have been involved in many code situations (patients who go into arrest, whether cardiac or respiratory, requiring resuscitation, CPR and rescue drugs), I have assisted in many rooms of patients who have died, and I have carried my fair share of children to the morgue, but it has never been my own patient. Somehow that changed things. And she wasn't a child, she was a young mommy with a new baby at home. Somehow that changed everything. 

This patient whom I had cared for, whose hand I had held, whose ear I had whispered into, whose skin I had stroked, whose husband and family I had spoken with throughout the days; her body could not fight hard enough and we could not keep up fast enough, and she slipped into cardiac arrest. To watch this life slip away, to see her chest get flogged with pre-cordial thumps, compressions, and multiple shocks from the defibrillator was heart-wrenching for me as a professional. As I pushed drug after drug, as I yelled out for the recorder all that was happening, my eyes caught the horrified look of her husband standing just outside the door, arms clutched to a family member. We could not save her. Time of death was called.

There are few sounds as painful as the wailings of a mourning husband, draped over his bride who is no longer here. There are few things as tragic as a baby who will never know her mommy. There are few scenes as painful. And as the room cleared and the family began to mourn this incredible loss, the adrenaline, frustration, exhaustion, disappointment and pain of it all welled up in me, and the tears began to flow. I could not stop them. And so I kept moving as I tried to tidy up the room and turn it from a room of treating and healing to one of mourning and wailing, never lifting my head to make eye contact, as my vision had become blurred from the tears. Just keep moving. All the way out of the room, past the doctors and nurses gathered outside, straight to the bathroom where I could let it go, and work to regain my composure. 

Some have asked how we do what we do. I honestly don't know. I mourn and grieve. We hug a lot. We allow the tears to flow. And then the phone rings and there's another patient coming in who needs an ICU bed, so we pull it together and work with everything in us to see this patient do better. And then at night, I hug my kids a little tighter and little longer (until my three year old reminds me that she needs to breathe), and I bury my head on my husband's chest and just hold him. 

I am gearing up to go back to work the next couple of days. I know it will be better. I just needed to process those last few. 

Don't forget to hug your kids, a little tighter, a little longer. Don't forget to tell your husband how much you love him. Life is just so unpredictable sometimes. I wouldn't want you to miss out on an opportunity. 

Grace and peace, y'all. All kinds of grace and peace.


  1. Shauna, what a blessing you are to your hospital and your patients. You're just throwing around Christ's love to everyone in your way, without even realizing it most of the time. It would have really touched me to be a family member and see how a caregiver was so touched by the passing of a life. This is not just a job for you... this is your ministry. I love you more than words can express... xoxox

  2. This made me tear up...and reminded me to cherish every minute with my family. Thank you.


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