One Patient

One Patient

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

One Patient

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

Psalms 54:2

I often review this episode in my mind. Little did I realize at the time that one patient would have such an impact on me.

She was an eighty-seven-year-old woman, who I’ll refer to as Mrs. G. She was transported from the local nursing home with an acute inferior wall myocardial infarction. Until a year ago, she lived with her family, who said that, although she was physically weak, she remained “sharp as a tack.” Presently, she was in acute pulmonary edema and hypotensive with an unstable cardiac rhythm. I remember how frightened she looked as she lay there surrounded by two nurses, three physicians, and a respiratory therapist. Within minutes she had a tube placed in her mouth, another in her nose, and a catheter inserted into her right neck, and both hands firmly restrained at her side.

Her “periods of agitation” were noted by everyone in the room. Even though both hands were snuggly restrained, she continued to pull and thrash in bed. It became obvious to me that she became more agitated each time I entered the room, and I said a silent prayer that no one else noted my effect on her. I wondered if she thought I was the one who had intubated her, or if the restraint I applied was too tight. I spoke to her often and she seemed alert, nodding appropriately to the questions I asked her.

Before long, Mrs G.’s condition started to deteriorate; medications were started and titrated as we closely monitored her progress. In spite of this, she followed me with her eyes, pointed to me with her restrained hands, and continued trying to speak. The pulmonologist insisted she was becoming more restless and confused secondary to hypoxia and should be sedated to avoid self-extubation.

At this time I was alone with her and stood by her side. “What is it you are trying to tell me?”

I untied her right hand and, still holding it firmly, placed a pen in it. I held a paper and watched this aged woman trembling, determined to write something she obviously felt was important.

After she wrote three words, her head fell back on the pillow and her hands relaxed. I restrained her again, although for the first time I felt no resistance.

I looked at the paper and saw the words she was so desperate to write, so large they covered the entire page: “God bless you.”

Peggy Krepp

More stories from our partners