Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Helplessness

So I had a rough night at work almost two weeks ago. It was one of those moments in time that is stamped in your memory forever. It was also one of those times which you have to think about and process before being able to write about it...at least without crying.

To those who are pregnant (Hilary, Amanda, Sarah) or have had a miscarriage, GO AWAY. This was one of those rare instances where something bad happened, which will certainly NOT happen to you preggo ladies. However, for the sake of your sanity, click elsewhere!

I'm a relatively new nurse. Not still in orientation phase, but I definitely have not had enough experience that I'm "calloused." I don't mean that in a mean way, but from what I can tell, I believe when you've been in a medical profession where you interact directly with patients for a long time, your mind becomes calloused--to events, people, situations. Sure you still feel a twinge of sadness due to events, but I'm not sure it's ever as touching as the first time you encountered such a situation. With that being said, this was my first time.

It was Friday night in the ER about 3:30-4:00 am. My night was going well considering I had been up approximately 20 hours. I was told I had an 18 week pregnant lady coming back to my room with abdominal cramping. One of the nurses told me she had been there the night before and everything was checked out, seen as normal, and she'd been sent home. Honestly, I didn't think too much of it since she'd just been cleared less than a day ago.

I heard screaming down the hall. I walked back towards her room and she was already in the bed. The first thing I noticed was a little blood on the blanket between her legs. Honestly, in my mind I thought, "Oh, hopefully it's just a little bleeding/spotting we can get stopped and have her OB come in and see her." Thankfully, another nurse (much more experienced than I) was in the room already with the patient, holding her hand. She clearly understood the "emergentness" of this situation much better than I did at that moment. I wasn't naive for long. The other nurse assisted her in opening her legs to check to see if she was dilating. Much worse. She was crowning...and quickly.

I ran down the hall looking for a doctor to assist. I found him and led him into the room. To be honest, I wanted as far away from there as possible and absolutely didn't want to go in. My sleep deprived, hormonal, motherly mind wanted me out. However, she was my patient, and I didn't wanna leave in case I was needed.

The baby was pulled out and laid into a bedpan, the only thing on hand during the premature delivery. I tried my best not to look, but during a moment when someone's arm moved, I saw. That poor, precious baby was completely formed. His little eyes were still fused, but his fingers and toes were all there, perfectly and delicately formed. His little arms and legs were so tiny. I remember the content look on his face as he lay in that bucket. It was the most peaceful smile almost. I thought to myself, "Hopefully he passed away without pain, safe in his mommy." There was nothing we could do for an 18 week baby. Medical science just isn't that advanced. That little soul would have had so, so much more growing to do mentally and physically before he could have fended for himself outside of his mommy. Mom was bleeding pretty heavily, and they had to get it stopped. They clamped the umblicial cord. That's where my mind took a photo.

The baby which I thought had passed away safe within his mommy's womb, picked his head up and turned it towards me and formed his mouth into an "O". I lost it. Was he trying to cry? Was it just some sort of reaction? What he trying to gasp for air because his blood supply had been cut off? I got out of that room as quickly as possible. I cried. Harder than I've ever cried. I wanted to pick up that poor baby and hold him as he died so that he felt something besides a bedpan on his body. I was mad. Mad that there was absolutely nothing we could do for this little soul. Not a thing except watch him die in a pool of blood. I felt guitly. Guilty because I remembered feeling my baby kick at 19 weeks exactly, just days older than this baby. I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy at home, and there lay this little boy who did not stand a chance. And that poor mother. She was never given the chance to parent that little boy. To cuddle and kiss him. To tickle his tummy. So many emotions.

I was relieved to fall into my husband's arms that morning and tell him what happened. I was grateful to hold my sweet baby moments later and look into his bright blue eyes and see his sweet smile. It took days to get over that eventful night. To be able to talk about it without crying. How some people have abortions, I just don't know. That sweet living child was just that--living. It's beyond me.

So that was my first time. Probably not the last. But I must say, if I ever become calloused, and I look back to this night and see those pictures so firmly stamped in my head, there is no way that emotion won't flow.

5 comments:

Lori said...

Wow. That was really hard to read. I'm sorry you had to see that. I can't imagine what moms go through.

Luke & Amanda said...

Audra,
I, of course, could not quit reading, but I am so sorry you had to go through that night. There is nothing more heartwrenching than a baby that is born too early, or malformed, and having to watch the mom and family suffer. I cant imagine being in the room with her at that moment. Being pregnant, I wish I had an unjaded view of pregnancy, but it is so hard when I know of so many things that can go wrong. Thanks for sharing, and come rock healthy babies if you need to. next time in the middle of the night! (I was there last Friday :)
love~

Anonymous said...

My mom is a physician that's been practicing for 27 years now...and she's still not "calloused". I don't know that it ever is easy seeing a family suffering. And I completely believe that the best doctors and nurses are the ones that still have feelings and empathy towards their patients.

Andrew, Audra & Drew said...

Anonymous-

I agree with you on your last statement. It's so important to be able to connect to patients emotionally. Please forgive me if you understood me incorrectly. I was not implying that ALL medical professionals who have been who have been practicing in the field for a long time have no feelings of sympathy/empathy. I think it's just that after you've seen X condition so many times, it's not quite as hard to take the next time. You definitely still feel for the family, but it's easier to stomach. Does that make sense? The shock of having to deal with something for the first time isn't as bad. Does that make more sense?

Kelly said...

Wow. Those situations are so hard to understand but such an important reminder to be thankful for our sweet little boys.

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