We all have stories to share about our experiences in the hospital. There are stories that make us sad. There are those that delight us. More importantly, there are those stories that inspire us.
I remember taking care of an old man six months ago who succumbed into death soon after. He was suffering from the consequences of cerebrovascular disease (CVD), the most common disease recorded in the unit. I received the patient lying on the hospital bed stuporous and unable to speak. He had an initial Glasgow Coma Scale of 9 (E3V1M5). He had thick yellowish sputum that he wasn’t able to expectorate. And so, he needed suctioning and regular nebulization with Salbutamol.
I wanted him to be a success story. Truth be told, I cared for this man more aggressively than the others. I didn’t want him to feel the same suffering experienced by other patients in the ward. I don’t know but I just have a thing for old people, most especially fathers or grandfathers. Maybe, I think about my father and grandfather whenever I care for these people. Care the way you want to be cared for, or the way you want your family to be cared for.
I strictly followed the nebulization schedule and did aggressive chest-pulmo physiotherapy (CPPT). After which, I suctioned his secretions / sputum as needed. I did this routine every time I’m on duty. But these practices didn’t help improve his breathing. He was eventually intubated and hooked to a mechanical ventilator that helped him breathe. At that point, I did not feel sad but rather disappointed at the thought that I could’ve done more.
I am witness to what seemed like a vicious cycle of intubation – weaning – extubation – intubation. Whenever the patient is weaned off the mechanical ventilator and eventually allowed to breathe room air, I provide the same routine : nebulization – aggressive CPPT – suctioning. Despite my efforts, he was eventually re-intubated.
I remember during the last few days of his life and whenever his caregivers aren’t around, I would talk to him and tell him that I hope I had cared enough for him. I hoped that I did my job well or that at least he was satisfied with the care I rendered. I did not receive any response. He was comatose. But it was okay. It didn’t matter.
Days leading to his death, he had constant high fever and blood pressure was slowly dropping. There were signs of poor perfusion including cool pale extremities, poor urine output, and apparent skin discoloration. I expected him to die of septic shock. I have roughly explained to the family what could happen to their patient and told that death was imminent at that time.
I was on duty on the day that the patient died. Like the usual, I did post-mortem care. After which, I silently prayed. I offered my condolences to the family and went home after.
I cried on my way home. This was the first time I cried over a patient’s death. I cried for hours. I didn’t check my phone nor opened my social media accounts. I lied on my bed thinking about his course in the ward. It was a sad one.
Days after his death, I received a message request on Facebook. It was from one of his daughters. The message read (:
“Hi Reiner. Maraming salamat sa’yo sa pag-aalaga mo kay papa. Thank you sa’yo. Kita ko paano [mo] inalagaan si papa. Isa ka sa best nurse[s] na dapat tularan. Si mama din nagpapasalamat sayo dahil hanggang sa huli [ay] kasama ka namin sa pag-aalaga kay papa. Hindi ka namin makakalimutan. Kaya kampante ako [na] nakakatulog kapag ikaw ang nakaduty dahil alam ko safe si papa sa’yo.”
At that time, I was just five months in the nursing service and to receive a message with words of gratitude like this was a big deal for me. It serves as a testament of not how good I am as a nurse but how nurses, in general, touch the lives of the people they care and those around them in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It is a testament of how it could be a fulfilling experience to genuinely care for others.
Up to this day, I think of him and the days I cared for him. The experience continuously reminds me how important the role of a nurse is. It inspires me to do better and be better. This is but one of the many experiences that silently and slowly reveal to me my purpose in life – to touch lives, to save lives. #