In my very short nursing career (super short! I’m not yet a licensed nurse!!) I have been a part of 3 deaths. 3 deaths over 2 years of theory and clinical.
Two were very expected. The patients were on palliative care orders, they’d had a decline and death was expected. I cried a little, moved on and continued my day without much pause.
The third and last (latest?) was not.
He wasn’t expected to die.
His death was not only unexpected, it was unusual and traumatic.
An artery blew and he bled out. He was my patient. I had sat him up for breakfast, and 45 minutes later I was walking by to get another patient a drink and saw him slumped over.
His bed was covered in blood and non-responsive.
I discovered this.
I didn’t respond well – there were things I didn’t do that I should have, and there were things I shouldn’t have done that I did.
I learned so very much from that man’s death.
I walked out of the room as they were continuing the code and thought to myself… what did I miss? What didn’t I do right? What could I have done differently?
Don’t leave the patient.
Hit the emergency button.
Put oxygen on the patient.
Open the IV to run a bolus.
Look for the bleed.
The last two are probably interchangeable. Stopping the bleed is important but getting volume back into the patient is important as well.
So I learned.
And now… the grief has hit me again and again.
I talk about it, and I cry. I think about it, and I cry. I’m blogging about it, and I cry.
It was the first traumatic death I’d experienced. And in the words of the nurse who was working with me… it was VERY traumatic.
My husband’s death wasn’t traumatic like that. It’s not reminiscent. It’s only reminiscent in that it wasn’t an expected death. We expected Mark to get better. He didn’t. I expected the patient to get better. He didn’t.
I am grieving over this patient who’s name I don’t fully remember (just remember his first name) and his death.
People tell me it’s normal. That I will learn to adjust. That it will stay with me. That I learned from it and from this point on, I will ALWAYS remember to check my emergency equipment, hit the emergency button and put oxygen on a patient who is suddenly not stable.
But I’m grieving. And I’m sad. And I suppose it will eventually be a part of me. I’ve also been told that if I wasn’t compassionate and caring – I wouldn’t feel this. But in the meantime…
I grieve. For the man who’s last name I can’t remember. For his dog. For the children who lived across the country. For a death that shouldn’t have happened even though I know that there probably wasn’t anything anyone could have done differently to change the outcome.
The images in my head flash randomly. The memory of his voice haunts me. And I grieve.