Being a nurse is always challenging, but some days it can be a little much emotionally. Today was one of those days. And I find myself reminiscing about certain children I’ve cared for in the past.
Ever since I was a brand new nurse 13 years ago, I’ve always worked with kids. Some kids stay on my mind for the whole day or night – some for always.
- I’ll never forget my 8-year-old patient on the pediatric hematology/oncology floor. I was a brand new nurse working the night shift. He had been diagnosed with cancer in his home country and traveled with his mom to the states for treatment. He contracted a horrible fungal infection along the way. His mom worked nights and he didn’t speak English, so I was assigned to him. Nevermind that I was brand-spanking-new and he had multiple drips and meds and I was overwhelmed. I managed fine. He had a glowing smile, and he sometimes would join us at the nurses station and drink a cup of coffee with us! Last I heard he was doing well, but that was years ago.
- Even though it was brief, I won’t forget the baby who died in the emergency room. I was working the night EMS transported a 1-year-old baby to us. The nurses who had been working there for awhile knew of this baby. He had a chronic congenital condition called hydrocephalus and was not expected to have a long life. He was a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate – patient. That meant the healthcare team could only provide specific treatments laid out in the plan. That included oxygen and epinephrine/atropine. The baby died right there in front of us. We gave the baby to his mom and gave them privacy so she could say goodbye. In the meantime, I contacted the Organ and Tissue Center and made a sad discovery – this baby didn’t even weigh enough to donate his organs, even though the mom was willing. It was heartbreaking. And I had to go on about my shift, taking care of ear infections and demanding patients, and I wanted to yell at them “There’s a dead baby in Bed 6!” It was a nightmare that I didn’t want to experience again. I didn’t last long in that ER.
- When I worked at a different school several years ago, one of our students was taken away on a stretcher by EMS because he practically rolled off the bus, disoriented, saying “My dad gave me a white pill.” He was physically ok, but I wonder what his life has been like.
- When I worked in a pediatrician’s office, we took care of a newborn who was in foster care. She had a birth defect called partial anencephaly – her brain didn’t properly form and she was only born with primitive brain stem function. She was a beautiful little baby, and her instinct to suck kept her alive for a short time, taking a bottle from her foster mom. I couldn’t get over how “normal” she looked from the outside. The doctor I worked with said “It’s so sad that she won’t develop past this point.” I wonder how long she lived.
I’ve done this long enough to know: Today’s experiences may fade away. We have so many encounters with so many patients as nurses, that it is impossible to remember them all. Today I was told one of our students had major emergency surgery and we will wait to see how the child’s functioning will be affected. Another student suffered a traumatic hand injury at the end of the school day – I sent him off after some quick first aid to be taken care of. These two will stay on my mind for awhile. Even when I feel my brain and heart have reached their maximum capacity for caring and concern, life goes on and kids get sick and hurt. And I will stand with other nurses, ready to receive and bound to remember, at least for a time.