Not Just Another Day

Submitted by Kimberly Heister

Tags: car accident death emergency room ER multiple injuries PACU saying goodbye

Not Just Another Day

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It was a quiet April afternoon 2004 around 1600. All the surgeries were done for the day and everyone was trying to take advantage of the lull by sitting back, visiting and taking a nice dep breath. It was a level II trauma center and we never knew what would be coming through the door next or when.

A call came from the ER, they were sending up Mr. H an 82-year-old gentleman that had been T-boned when someone ran a red light. He was brought in as a trauma with multiple injuries and needed surgery immediately. Our trauma surgeons worked for over two hours on Mr. H but his injuries were just too severe. Dr. E, our head trauma surgeon went out to talk to Mrs. H and her grandson. Mrs. H was 76 and wheelchair bound. The decision was made to stop surgery and bring Mr. H to the PACU. There was no hope of survival. When Mr. H arrived to me in the PACU he was on a ventilator, heart rate was elevated, blood pressure almost nonexistent, pupils and patient unresponsive. Knowing Mr. H was dying I brought his wife and grandson into the PACU to sit with him. I positioned Mrs. H at the head of the bed and encouraged her to talk to him and hold his hand. Her grandson stood behind her. I turned off all the alarms on the monitors to give them some peaceful time to say goodbye to Mr. H.

I watched Mr. H’s vital signs, began to see his heart rate dropping, and could no longer get a blood pressure. I called Dr. E and asked him to come to the bedside to be present at the time of Mr. H’s death. I then began preparing Mrs. H and her grandson. Ms. H sat with Mr. H until the monitor showed asystole and Dr. E pronounced his death. I knelt beside her holding her hand and told her he was gone. Mrs. H looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said “thank you. That meant the world to me to know he went peacefully and wasn’t alone.” Her grandson took her home and I began preparing the body for the morgue. Mrs. H left me with a sense that we do make a difference in every single gesture we make. We should always be aware that one single word, touch or look makes an impact on our patients and their family. Because of this, we should always see each day as “not just another day”.