Friday morning on Instagram and in my 24 Day Challenge group, I posted my results and comparison pictures. I was feeling on top of the world, at my lowest weight of my entire weight loss journey and 8.5 inches smaller than I was 24 days before. I was getting ready to go into my first of three 12 hour days in a row and I was faced with what I hope is the most difficult assignment of my nursing career.
We all get attached to patients, some it's truly the family you become connected to and bond with, others it is the patient with their lack of family and your heart breaks for their loneliness. I've experienced both over my three short years as a nurse, and so far I have handled myself. When I find out one of our patients die, I immediately think of and pray for that family, regardless of whether I took care of them or knew them at all. They've been through battles I cannot begin to imagine, and whether they were long battles or very short ones, saying goodbye to a child is heartbreaking.
I found myself in a situation of having become attached and having to go through the grieving process with a family. While I obviously cannot give specific details, the background story was enough to make you feel for them, let alone what they were going through now. I put on my brave face and did my best to provide the comfort they needed, and whether it was enough I'll never know, but what I do know is the emotional exhaustion I felt on my way back from the morgue. My hands could not get warm again the whole rest of the day as they felt the cold touch of the cart as I placed it into the cooler.
After all of this, I had about 40 minutes before having to take a new assignment and I needed to get my lunch in as well. I brought my own, but made my way to the cafeteria and bought the only thing I wanted which was some ice cream and the biggest sugar cookie in the world that happen to be sold in my hospital. I sat and tried to begin to process what had happened that morning and ate my feelings. I went back to my unit and found a co-worker had dropped off cupcakes, and I had two of those too. Later in the day another unit that we're helping out during a busy time had sent up pizzas. So I had some. I came home after this day and told Kyle that I needed a drink and a steak - so off we went for those. A margarita, steak, fries, salad, and bread later, I came home and went to bed. I prayed for peace for the family, I prayed for my own self control and that my soul could be renewed upon my waking.
Saturday I woke up for work and I was miserable. I don't know if it was from all that food (likely), or whether it was still all of the emotions overcoming me (maybe), but I wasn't happy to be putting on my scrubs. I did it anyway and made my stop at Starbucks and was on my way. Luckily I had the cutest patient in the world and an easy assignment because in all honesty my mind wasn't 100% where I needed it to be to have been doing anything more taxing. I signed the bereavement card to be sent to the family and as the day went on I felt more like myself. I blared some Mumford & Sons for my drive home and was feeling better but made the stop at Chipotle on my way home for the next comfort meal.
Yesterday I continued feeling more like myself, but thought about all of my hard work that I had undone the past two days and I was upset with myself. My body didn't know what the heck was going on between my head, my heart, and my stomach, and it didn't like it either. Yet I neglected to pack my lunch, had pizza anyway, and said "screw it, you're off work tomorrow, and it's a new day and a new week to get things back to normal". I'm all about a cheat meal, but the cheat day and in this case DAYS are unlike me. I've lost three grandparents since September and coped pretty well. But this event shook me to my core. While it's unfortunately part of the job, especially in the ICU world, it's not totally real until you are part of it. I've dealt with death in the adult world, and I think we'd all agree it's often times more accepted of adults when they die. I was in school still when I cared for a patient who died on my unit when I was a PCA and that was pretty sad to me. But I put him in his body bag and took him to the morgue and it was just part of life and my job. I lost one patient in surgery and it was terrible being the one to go to the waiting room to talk to that family since things weren't going well and the surgeon couldn't leave. THAT was awful. I knew then I wasn't meant to be a doctor and I was absolutely meant to be the nurse holding that families hand and not the one delivering the news. But in this case I was holding their hands, rubbing backs, being present for not only the family but for the staff who love the patients like family. I held myself together until the final goodbyes between a parent and child and it shattered me. The life left unlived is tragic.
It won't be the last time. I know this. But your first pediatric death is the one you won't forget, this I now know is true.
I am healing. I am getting myself back together. I will be okay. I will never forget what I felt, and that is what's important.