Monday, December 13, 2010

Never gets easier.

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.

13 comments:

Lizzy said...

That is really sad. But it's part of your job and you should feel like you can talk about it, even if it's depressing. I hope your week gets a lot better though. I know you did your best to help whoever this person was and you're definitely not to blame. <3 Love and hugs, Lizzy

Rachael said...

That is sad. I'm sure those days are very difficult. But you're one of the people in this world that do try to save lives, and that's something we all should thank you for. I hope the rest of the week are full of more happy days, than sad.

Jillian said...

i am so sorry kristen! i feel for you, my boyfriend is in his internal medicine roation in residency and he has told me similar stories. seeing a patient get better, being released then only to see them come back into the hospital. i am sure it is not easy to deal with the family but know that you are a source of comfort and information to those people and they DO appreciate all of your hard work. i admire doctors and nurses' ability to care for others and experience the grief that occasionally comes with the job. cheer up- i am sure you are doing the best you can. xoxo jcd

Jenni said...

Ooh, Kristen... What you do is so very admirable. I can't imagine the stress, but also to rewards, of a job like yours. But I hope I have a nurse like you if I'm ever in the hospital! :)

A New England Girl said...

I'm sorry you're feeling down in the moment. I've often listed to my SIL talk about the stresses and upsets when the time like this comes (she's an ICU nurse, too). I wish I could offer some words of support, but instead I will just say this: what you do (like others have said) is so admirable and human and loving. I appreciate everything you do and everything you expressed here. I hope that you know you can always express what you need to and we'll rally around with support.... xoxo.

Jamie said...

You're much stronger than I could ever be! I know your patients are lucky to have you!

July said...

This is so sad, and I can't even imagine what it must be like to have to go through this. You are SO strong, and I'm sure that your patients realize how much you care about them. :)

Dani'sfadingmargins said...

Thanks so much for sharing about your job. What would we do without strong people like you?

Faith said...

i couldn't do it. just reading this made me want to cry. it is so hard to realize that one day someone can be strong and able and the next day totally dependent on someone else.

and when it is someone you love, it is even harder. makes you realize just how life is and that truly the life we call ours ... really isn't.

Christine said...

i'm sorry you had such a trying week. it must be so hard to watch someone struggle for their life. they are lucky that they have you to help them get better! xoxox

{av} said...

wow! you are an angel to these patients...and their families, even if the news isn't always what they want to hear. thank you for everything you do :) hope you got some rest today! xoxo {av}

TupeloLove said...

I'm so sorry. I can't imagine being in your line of profession. But you really make a difference to people every day, and that's a true gift. I hope you feeling better today!

Rhiannon Nicole said...

This is heart breaking. I've been in one of those situations not as a nurse but as a family member around a sick and dying person and it's terribly sad feeling so helpless and upset. Just know you are trying your best and doing your part and for that so many people are grateful and thankful. Chip up gorgeous :) xo