A Nurse's Week Experience to Remember
When Melanie asked if I would write a blog post for Nurse's Week, I was ready to write a completely different post than the one you're about to read. I had plenty of great ideas for a post to celebrate this week, and then I spent last weekend on call. To call it a rough call weekend would be an understatement, to say the least. But, despite having a hard call weekend, the events, patients, and families that I took care of during that time only served to solidify my calling to the nursing profession.
My call weekend had begun, and I was settling in for some Friday night baseball on TV when my cell phone began to ring, and I heard the dreaded quacking ringtone that told me I was getting called from the hospital. As I grabbed the phone, I thought, "Will this be a case for tonight or tomorrow?"
What I heard on the other end of the phone was, "I have a huge favor to ask..." It was my charge nurse, and she really did need a huge favor. I was on call for cardiac, but this wasn't a cardiac case that was getting posted. However, our facility needed to do an organ procurement immediately because the patient wouldn't survive the transport to the transplant facility in St. Louis. This organ procurement needed to be done at our hospital, and sooner rather than later due to the deterioration of the patient.
Our facility doesn't do organ procurements very often, but I did them a lot at previous hospitals, so I've always been called on to do them when they occur in our OR. I was very happy to help, especially given the urgency of the situation, so I headed in to the hospital.
Organ procurement cases are somber situations, for sure. But, even in the heaviness, there's hope. By assisting in this case I was helping to change the lives of four families I didn't know, and would probably never see. From this procurement, two patients in our area received kidney transplants, and two other patients in our area will be receiving cornea transplants next week!
Ah, a day of rest after a long day! I went about my day and the phone didn’t ring, which is PURE BLISS to anyone who has ever been on call. I was getting ready for some Saturday night soccer, when once again the quacking sound of my cell phone told me that the hospital was calling.
"Oh no, is this a case for tonight, or tomorrow?" I thought as I answered the phone. Don't we all think that when we're on call and our phone rings? The charge nurse said I needed to come in for a cardiac case, but it didn't seem like it was going to be a very long case, and I eagerly hoped that I would make it back home in time to watch the second half of the game...
When I arrived at the hospital, I headed over to the Emergency Room (ER) to see our patient and saw that the whole whole ER crew was in a trauma room running a code. I said a quick prayer for all involved and then went to see my patient. Due to the situation in the next room, I did all the pre-op consents, paperwork, gathering of patient belongings, and even Facetimed with his sisters to answer their questions. AS an OR nurse we don’t always get this kind of interaction, so I didn’t mind spending all the extra time with my patient. He and his sisters were grateful for the time given and one sister even wished me a Happy Nurse’s Day! “My best friend is a nurse so I know today’s your day!” she told me. Can’t lie…I couldn’t hide my smile.
I went back to the nurse’s station to get some labels only to be stopped by our cardiac doctor. “I’m activating ECMO on the patient in there” he said as he pointed to the code room. My adrenaline immediately kicked in. I ran back to the OR and notified our team about the situation. We got our equipment and raced back to the ER.
As a team, we've got our ECMOs down like a well-oiled machine and within minutes had this gentleman hooked up to the machine. After talking to the ER nurses and ICU doctor about the background on the patient, I found out he was only 2 years older than me, that his mom was the woman standing in the door way, and that his uncle is an ER doctor at another local hospital. I quickly sent up another another prayer for the family.
Realizing now that it had been nearly 90 minutes since I had told our original patient that we were headed to the OR, I popped back in to talk to him. He had been in agonizing pain so I expected him to be really upset at the delay, but he wasn’t. He was so calm and pleasant. He said, “I know you guys are working hard next door. It’s ok. I can wait.” I squeezed his hand, said thank you, and went back next door.
Finally, at 10pm (3 hours later than when we thought we were going to the OR) we took our patient back. The procedure went as quickly as we thought it would, and then we sent him off to recovery. I still had to chart on both cases, stock our ECMO, and verify all was well in the ICU. We all finally left a little after midnight, and my in-and-out call case turned into a 6 hour night.
Rest day for sure, I thought. I had a good breakfast, got cleaned up, found out our ECMO patient passed, went to mass, and then headed home for a restful day. Once again, I was getting ready to watch some Sunday afternoon baseball when that familiar sound quacked through the silence. Apparently I was just not allowed to watch any of the St. Louis sports teams play this weekend...
When I answered the phone, another emergency cardiac case was being added on, and I needed to get to the hospital. This time, I knew it wouldn’t be a quick call day. We moved quickly and got the surgery started fast. While prepping the OR for surgery, every team member took turns taking a snack and drink break, because we knew this was going to be a long case that ran well into the evening.
And it was, but everyone on the team worked so well together. Around 5pm, everyone's snacks had long worn off, and the team was hungry, but there was at least 3-4 more hours to go before the case was finished. About that time I got a call from a coworker who wasn't on call. She asked if we were still working, and I told her we still had a few more hours to go on the case.
45 minutes after that phone call, our coworker - who wasn't on call and didn't have to come in - showed up with pizza for the whole team! She even gave everyone on the team 20 minute breaks so that we could eat and rest. We were shocked!
Throughout this very long and delicate case, I kept the family updated. Every time I ended a phone call the patient’s son said, “Thank you for what you all do and for taking care of our mom.”
We finally finished the case about 9pm. Our boss, aware of our long call weekend texted to let everyone know that we would be getting Monday off. It was so nice to have that kind of consideration after such a rough weekend on call.
Grateful patients and families.
The feeling of satisfaction when you’ve helped someone and the feeling of sadness when the outcome is not what you hoped for.
This is how I spent my Nurse’s Day and how I’m kicked off Nurse’s Week.
Am I tired as I write this? 100%
Would I do what I did this past weekend again if called to? 1000%
Happy Nurse's Week!