Today I'm feeling drained. Just worn out in every way possible. You see, I spent the weekend working. And the last week very well may have been one of the hardest weeks in my five and a half years of being a nurse.
Normally in a cardio-thoracic ICU, people get better. They get operated on...the surgeons fix their heart, and they come straight out of the operating room to our unit. We are the "recovery room." As ICU nurses, we see people in their sickest state, with tubes and lines coming from every orifice. We stabilize them, monitor everything from the number of breaths they take, to the amount of blood their heart is pumping out each minute, to the color of their feet. We are the nurse solely responsible for that patient. We work with a team of doctors, physician assistants, and respiratory therapists to optimize every little thing...from their heart rate, to blood pressure, to the amount of urine they make. And gradually, they get better. Sometimes it takes twelve hours, sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes even a week or weeks, but they get better. This is one of the joys of my job. Seeing a patient come out of the OR, completely dependent on me, and watching them improve. Knowing I did my very best to care for them in their sickest time...and then being able to see them up and walking around a few days later. With their new and improved heart, they are able to go home and live out the rest of their days.
Sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes, even the very best surgeons cannot fix a broken heart. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, people don't get better. It's so hard to feel like you, in some way, have failed.
Last night I came to realize that it never gets any easier to tell someone's family that their loved one is going to die. Watching the faces on a group of 25 people stand around a patient's bedside and pray, and looking at that patient, so fragile. Dependent on my care for everything, for every body system. Really it is just overwhelming sometimes. I have seen death. And I've seen miracles. But it will never get any easier to be in this moment, with that family, as they realize their loved one is dying.
Sorry for such a depressing post on a Monday. I'm sure I'll be back to my cheery self after a day of rest. Take a little extra time today to remind those people you love how much they mean to you.
Traveling with my camera
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