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Your Most Memorable Patient wants to hear from you!

Tell us a story about your most memorable patient--and it will be published on the site!

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One Response to “Your Most Memorable Patient”

  1. Jason R. Thrift Says:

    I think one of my most memorable patient experiences had to be the day I started my first IV.

    I was with an IV team member who was allowing me to try starts on patients. We stepped into this one room with a patient that had end-stage liver disease.

    I’ll never forget the way their skin looked, completely jaundiced from head to toe. I had learned in school about how a person can look with that type of liver disease, but never had actually seen it before until that day. Even the whites of her eyes were yellow.

    I, still being a student at the time, had tunnel vision, however. I was there to do a job, to learn something about IVs that day. Amazingly, this woman became the first patient I ever started an IV on. I was so proud! Maybe what I had done was going to help this poor lady? I hoped so, but I was too enamored with my own accomplishment to see what was happening right in front of me.

    The IV team nurse assisted me with the finishing of the IV, but then she jumped to action. She took one look at the patient and immediately called for assistance. I looked up to the patients face, but still I didn’t see it. Looking back, as a much more astute and observant nurse, I would have seen that her eyes were fixed, her chest was barely moving, her limbs were going limp. Although she was still breathing, she was slowly slipping away. I still had not realized what was happening, because it was happening so fast.

    The other nurses came in and surrounded the bed, as the IV team nurse and I began to move out of their way. Then, the daughter of this woman did something I will never forget. I saw her lean in and grab her mother’s hand. Then she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “There’s no hope.”

    At that point it seemed like the whole room was moving in slow motion, as I backed away from the bed. I’d characterize it as a scene in a movie where black edges form around a center, brightly lit image, as the nurses and the daughter surrounded this patient, this woman, for one last time.

    Once we were out of the room I asked the nurse what had happened? Remember, I was young, a bit naive. I’d never faced death before, like that, not even when my grandmother had passed away the year before. The nurse respond very staunchly and crass, “She died.” Then it was back to business for her.

    But for me, I couldn’t let that go that day. I started tearing up. I couldn’t believe how business-like the nurse’s response was, but she had seen this many more times than I had. I actually began to cry at one point because although I had succeeded in my task, the primary goal had failed. I was weeping because the woman had died.

    Everything we do in the profession of nursing is to try and save lives. But I learned that day, despite your most valiant of efforts, some lives just can’t be saved. It’s not because you have to choose what lives to save, or the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few; sometimes a life just ends. If you did all you could until the moment that final breath arives, that’s all you can do for another human being. If you do that, there’s always hope!

    I remember in post-conference telling the story of my dying patient and as I spoke the words I became almost delirious. I was actually smiling, which everyone took notice of. I’m not sure why I smiled, but I like to believe that it’s because I didn’t believe the daughter’s words. No one should ever lose hope, even in death. The sadness that comes from losing someone you loved cannot be matched by the hope that they go on to something greater. If you can trust in that and believe it, hope is always eternal.

    I’ve faced death many times since and I can tell you it hurts every time I have ever lost a patient, but I always remember back to this moment, that sometimes hope is not necessarily about saving some one from death, but embracing the hope that in death they go on to something much greater than we could ever imagine.

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