Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

CPR and Praying – Both Done Better In the Kneeling Position

Instead of being on the road driving toward my parents for dinner at 4:50, I was on my knees in one of the rooms of my next door neighbor’s home.

“One and two and three and four. One and two and…”

I ignored the 911 operator on speaker phone (she was going too slowly). My sweet neighbor was yelling, “We’re fine. She’s a nurse. My neighbor’s a nurse.”

We weren’t fine.

I wanted to cry, not because of stress, but because despite his disheveled appearance, I knew I was doing compressions on someone younger than me, someone who my instincts told me, had given up. Hope is an integral part of my belief system, and sensing its absence blanketed me with grief for the stranger lying below me.  There was also the small pop felt under my hand on the fifth compression and I knew I had cracked rib. Guilt, major guilt. Irrational. But it was there anyway.

I also felt alone. You’re never alone in the hospital. You never go through this alone. There is a whole team. Sometimes so many, the extras that can’t find any way to help are sent back to their normal duties.

He took in a garbled breath, and in the background, the sounds of sirens could be heard entering the neighborhood. I stopped CPR, and with my fingers under his jawbone, lifted his chin. He took in two more rumbling gasps of air. His lips flapped when he exhaled.

Now at his head, I noticed with more care the deep gash across his left brow, the blood on the carpet, and a foot away, a syringe with a bent needle. It confirmed my suspicion that demons were winning the fight for this guy’s life.

Heavy footsteps signaled the arrival of help. I kept my guy’s chin thrust upward, watched his chest go up and down, and remained in a scrunched up position between the door frame. A long legged paramedic stepped over me and threaded an IV into his hand. After the mom explained her son’s history, they administered Narcan – reversing the sedative effect on his heart, oxygenated him, and assisted him to a stretcher for his visit to the nearby hospital.

His mom thanked me profusely and in the same sentence, told me she’d also had a bad day at work. His dad also thanked me and finished by saying “I’m so embarrassed.”

I told them everyone has struggles and hugged them both.

I got to Mom and Dad’s by 5:12.



One Room

We have a room for it in our hospital, one room. But then, we are only a 184 bed hospital, so maybe it’s appropriate.

I shouldn’t, but I feel so removed from it, detached in a way. But then, that could be denial, fear, and the opinion that writing up a big post on something I’ve had no experience with seems somewhat pretentious.
I’ve been sitting here looking at this draft, unfinished draft, way too long.
Now I feel guilty that I have so little to say.

I am going to go pray.


PEG tubes and Idina Menzel

menzelI walk into a procedure room and upon seeing a somnolent ninety-two year old prepared to have a PEG tube placed, I have the urge to burst into a chorus from the song “Let It Go”.

Yes people, I have found a loose connection between PEG tubes, advance directives, and Idina Menzel, the incredible singer/ actress that launched the above mentioned song into the stratosphere.

First I will fill in for any nonmedical people what a PEG tube is: It is a small rubber hose that a doctor puts in your stomach by first making a small incision on your abdomen. You’ll get liquid feedings, something the same consistency as baby formula, placed through the tube. Yes, you are sedated for the placement. The site on the abdomen is numbed with lidocaine. From there it’s anyone’s ballgame.

There’s risk to sedation. There’s risk to having the endoscope passed down the esophagus.  But…if you have been given power of attorney for an elderly family member, there’s no risk to you. You get to avoid the stress debating whether your family member actually senses hunger.  You get to avoid the discomfort that will return when the sedation wears off. This procedure, in my opinion, only relieves family the anxiety of taking a realistic look at the quality of life of the person lying in that bed.

As hard as it may sound, I’m going to ask you anyway…let it go. Think twice about agreeing to that PEG tube.

Let go of the guilt you feel because you are unable to make things better and are only a witness their last months.

Sit in the hospital or nursing home with them. Talk or read to them. Play pleasing music that makes their eyes open a little wider.

Keep the memories and the love they shared with you.

The guilt, the fear, the self-doubt that your decision to bypass invasive treatments is anything less than a sign of respect for the life they lived and would like to be remembered for —

Let it go.


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