A nurse’s baggage
I did not know I was knackered that day until I threw my bits of scrubs on the skip, and a deep sigh escaped unexpectedly.
This was the first time in a long time that I was not my own person after my shift. I was brought to a dimension filled with valid emotions of grief, brokenness, exhaustion. That was a challenging day of being a nurse yet again. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes before I was startled by the sudden opening of the doors. It was time to regain my composure. A sweet smile broke out on my face, and I pretended to yawn to cover up my teary eyes.
People in health care have been standing in the eye of the storm since the pandemic broke out. This is my story.
The record said: 9:24 a.m.
I had one of the charge nurses supervise my practice that day. I was still on probation. I received the handover from the night team for a group of patients with diverse cases, varying case acuity levels, and different individual care needs. An old lady, with a Do Not Resuscitate directive in place, had to be watched closely. She was cuddled by a bear hugger for thermoregulation, with drips left and right. A monitor maniacally beeped loudly, which sounded great to my ears, as it was a sign that she would be staying with me for the stretch of my shift. I was wary for a moment when I checked her blood pressure, which was quite low at that point, but I smiled as I held her right hand. It felt warm. I whispered, good morning, nan!
My morning routine was uneventful. There was one special task: I needed to inform the old lady’s next of kin, her husband—who happened to be admitted, too, in the same hospital—about her present condition.
Then a doctor came. He must have learned about my pretty old lady. Before entering her room, he asked for the nickname I gave my patient. Less than two minutes later, he peeped out and shook his head. I knew what it meant in a second.
Time of death: 9:24 a.m., the record said.
I released a deep sigh I did not know I was holding, while I informed my charge nurse about my patient’s death. Documents were completed, her valuables were sent to the general office for safekeeping, and her medications tallied by the pharmacist. Then I was tasked to provide her a measure of final dignity with proper postmortem care.
As I was about to break the bad news to her next of kin, I was surprised to hear that her husband, in his own hospital bed in a different ward, had died, too.
My life as a nurse was back to square one the following morning—same shift, same routine, but different lives to be taken care of.
A bunch of patients needed frequent monitoring. One patient instantly caught my attention: a young man looking somewhat exhausted, with yellowish skin discoloration, fluid bags attached to him hanging on metal stands, and tubes connected to his veins. I was very concerned with his breathing—crackly and wet.
At half past 12, he turned into a dark ash bluish color, with eyes wide open. Despite knowing that a Do Not Resuscitate order was in place, my senior nurse and I decided to pull the emergency buzzer to alert the medics that a patient needed an urgent reassessment.
After almost an hour, he was settled. Though labored, his breathing eased back a bit. With an oxygen mask in place, his skin returned to its pale-yellow color. Nonetheless, I felt defeated when I saw that his plan of care was now in an End of Life pathway.
I heard the doctors talking to the patient’s partner over the phone, giving him updates. I asked my senior nurse if we could ring his partner and ask if he would like to call the patient using FaceTime. Unfortunately, the partner was a non-iPhone user. The doctor redirected the call to my charge nurse who said, “…due to the pandemic, we cannot let you see him. But let us see what I can do. I will call you back.”
The call never happened.
A few hours later, with the spare time I had during the shift, I found myself down on one bent knee, holding my patient’s left hand. I whispered, “Your partner called, he wanted you to know that he loves you so much. Think of the moments when you are happiest with him. He wants you at peace, I’m sure.”
At 7:36 p.m., he was gone. But he looked peaceful—now away from the pains and disappointments of his earthly life. With clasped hands, I whispered my prayers after one last glance at his eternal sleeping form covered in white, cotton sheets.
As a nurse, every shift means different inspirations and motivations for me. A message of hope. A wake-up call. A bridge to cross. A challenge to be addressed. A moving situation. A prayer to express. A cross to carry. Silent secret cries. But all of it, a worthy experience.
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Mark Alvin Fabros, 27, is a nurse in Blackpool, England. He is originally from Camiling, Tarlac.
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