Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mad At The World

Sometimes being an oncology nurse sucks -- a lot!

When I first started on my floor a few moths ago, one of my first patients was a young man (a baby in my eyes, significantly younger than me who was definitely in my opinion, just starting out in life) who had a wife and a 17 month old baby.  I had had patients near my age before, but never this young.  As the weeks went by I got to know him, his wife, his parents, his in-laws and his siblings.  They became part of our unit almost.  They slept on floors, cots, chairs, anything they could find to just get a few more moments with him.  He had beaten cancer once at 19, but it had come back and it was moving faster than I had ever seen cancer move before.  He spent a month with us, before I discharged him the week before Easter and told him "I hoped I'd never see him again." 

He came back in less than a week to my dismay and he was worse than ever.  The doctors told him it looked bad and they didn't think he could handle another round of chemo, unless things changed.  I watched him fade away before my eyes, until God finally took him earlier this week.  It was a blessing.  He had held on for so long, fighting for his family and for the long life he should have had, but he couldn't do it any longer and with just a few gasps for air he passed and was gone

I had a wave of nausea pass over me and I almost broke down in the medication room, but I managed to close my eyes and take a few deep breathes.  I reminded myself "I had to keep going."  I had patients to take care of.  I was calm on the outside but a turmoil of emotions on the inside as I tended to my patients and helped the family through the aftermath, as best I could. 

The night took forever and when daylight crept through the hospital windows signaling my shift was nearly over, I felt so relieved.  I had to get the hell out of there.  I stopped at the store at 8:30-9:00am and bought a six-pack of beer, under the circumstances beer for breakfast seemed the way to go.  I made it through one before I fell asleep exhausted. 

I woke up angry that a child so young had to grow up without knowing what an amazing father he had, a man who apologized to his mother about a week before he passed saying "I'm sorry, I didn't do more mom." 

I couldn't email anybody or call them that day.  I hid from the world.  I wasn't up for talking or sharing.  I never am when things like this happen.  My anger was of course, full throttle, not that he died when he did, but that it had to happen to him at all.  I spent most of my time wondering what the hell God was thinking and what more I could have done to help him. 

I finally, dragged myself out of my hole on Tuesday to go to the track, not to do the workout, but to go back and face the world.  Seeing my friends was really nice, a few knew something was wrong almost right away and when I told them they hugged me and told me they were sorry.  It was a short conversation, without a lot of dwelling or details.  I couldn't deal with a heart to heart, but just the short talk took a load off.  I ran absolutely terrible.  I was too hot, I couldn't breathe, I felt sluggish and completely blew the workout.  All those awful feelings though meant I was still alive.

Even in the moments of road rage, the crappy track workouts, the pain in my feet, the cotton mouth, the tears and the unimaginable sorrow that accompanies loss I'm not dead and I still have a lot to do with my life yet.


Juls said...

I worked at the bedside both in (PICU) and out (Pedi Home Health & palliative home care) of the hospital for 12 years. In those years, I lost quite a few patients – most never even seeing adulthood. It’s been 10 years since repetitive wrist injuries (resulting in my inability to hold my own baby) pushed into the pharma/biotech industry. To this day, I still sometimes shed tears for those certain patients that touched my heart.

Janet Edwards said...

So touching...hugs sweetie!