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The Patient That Enters Your Heart | Love Your Nursing Life | Bobbi McCarthy


Photo: Josh Welliver

I met her as she ran into room 1 carrying his little grey body…the triage nurse was just ahead of her with scared eyes. The mom, carrying the little grey body, was not crying. I wanted to. I took the little grey body from her, he was heavy and stiff, and laid him on the bed. The triage nurse ran to get more help. I grabbed the Pedi bag mask and began rescue breathing—actually there was nothing to rescue but I couldn’t not do it. There was no pulse and no activity but asystole on the monitor…he was gone.

“Please don’t do that…it’s his time to go and I don’t want him to come back. He has had a bad life, and we have a Do Not Resuscitate order.”

The nurse in me began screaming, “I’m supposed to save him…do CPR…intubate him…not give up!”

My mind heard her but my heart couldn’t take it in. I continued until the doc came in. The boy still had no pulse and he was mottled and grey. His eyes were open.

“What happened?” the doc asked.

“I just found him this way when I went to check on him.” She answered. No tears.

As the doctor and mother talked about the boy’s chromosome disorder and his pain I unwrapped the blue car blanket that held his little body. He was naked. This bothered me greatly.

“Why is he naked?” I asked her.

“He hated clothes.” She answered. My heart hurt.

Time of death 8:04am.

I asked her if I could clean him up (his body released fluids). She said yes. She sat down on the bed next to him but didn’t touch him. Another woman came in who was crying. The mother got up and went to her. They hugged. She asked me to give them a few minutes with him. I covered him up with a warm blanket and left the room. I know the warm blanket was useless but it made me feel better. I went into the bathroom and cried.

The mother told me what funeral home to call and then she and the other woman left. She left him with me. I went back into room 1 and I unwrapped his little body from the blankets and I gently washed him up. I cried. I wanted to close his eyes. I prayed for him. I put him in a little hospital gown and put his cold, grey and blue body into the body bag, and I again cried as I zipped him in.

I went to the nurse’s station, filled with chaos as usual, and I called the funeral home. Security came and took his body. I felt numb, sad, pissed off and confused. I tried so hard not to judge the mother but I did. My heart hurt over this boy—over the detached last moments she had with him…I did not walk in her shoes and so I know that I have no business judging…

I closed my heart, took a deep breath and went into room 3 to start my patient’s IV and draw her blood. I smiled and introduced myself…

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