76: Caring Through Tragedy

76: Caring Through Tragedy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Caring Through Tragedy

Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature, and union through pain and suffering has always seemed more real and holy than any other.

~Arthur Hallam

On a Sunday afternoon, a catastrophic car accident sent a thirty-two-week pregnant patient to our hospital in critical condition. The emergency department activated the OB emergent delivery team and the baby was delivered by emergency C-section. But he didn’t survive. The Labor and Delivery nursing team was dismissed after the delivery of the infant, but they chose to stay.

“We’ll complete the grief care for the baby and offer support to the grandmother who was in the car and is still in the Emergency Department.”

The L&D nursing team took the baby to their L&D Bereavement room and began the customary bereavement care. They created hand and foot castings, made footprint cards, cut and packaged a lock of hair, bathed the baby, and dressed him in a smocked gown donated by a local church group. Recognizing that it would likely be several days before this mother could see or hold her baby, they called a local photographer to take professional photos of him.

Then the nurses went to the ED to check on the grandmother and to inform her of her grandson’s location. After learning she would be in the ED several more hours awaiting test results, they brought the baby to her cradled in a soft blue blanket. The weeping grandmother asked, “Can one of you stay with me while I love my grandson?”

The nurse gently placed the baby in his grandmother’s arms. “He’s perfect,” she said. After cuddling him and kissing him, she went on to express more feelings of hopelessness.

“I lost my cell phone in the accident, and can’t remember any family numbers from back home. And I don’t know if my three small dogs in the car survived.”

The L&D nurse called the police department near the accident site to inquire about the cell phone and the dogs.

“They haven’t found your cell phone, but your three dogs are safe and sound at the police station.”

That evening, after she was discharged from the ED, the grandmother came to L&D to be with the baby again. The night staff noticed she was in paper scrubs.

The grandma shrugged. “My clothes were cut off. My suitcase was in the car. I don’t have any of my clothes or underclothes.”

The night shift team immediately went to work, pooling their money and rearranging assignments so someone could leave and go to the twenty-four-hour Walmart.

A few hours later, they reappeared and handed the grandma a shopping bag overflowing with clothes, undergarments, and toiletries. All she could do was weep and promise to pay them back as soon as she found her wallet.

“No need,” the staff said through their own tears. “This is our gift to you.”

The following day, the prognosis for the mother was very grim. The L&D nursing staff coordinated with the mother’s ICU nurse to bring the infant to her so photographs could be taken for a lasting memory.

A few days later, the grandmother’s friend arrived to be her support and help arrange a memorial service to honor the life of her grandson. The L&D nursing staff, chaplains and social workers assisted in coordinating a lovely service in the hospital chapel. The nurses rearranged their schedules, and when the grandmother walked into a chapel, a dozen nurses… new friends… greeted her.

I know this is a very difficult story to read, but I felt the need to share the extraordinary care that this L&D team provided, and to remind myself… and you… why we became nurses… to touch, to heal, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

~Leanne Sells

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