I've told a couple of stories about patients who drove me nuts, so I thought today I'd talk about a patient who brought me to tears.
He was a little tiny bald man who had been on the floor for a while. His diagnosis: congestive heart failure (CHF).
When he arrived he was a feisty old guy who would call the nurses station and ask if "one of his girlfriends" would come to his room. He usually only wanted a drink of water. (Patients with CHF usually have restrictions on how much fluid that can have per day. Most only get about one liter a day and they are ALWAYS thirsty.)
I was receiving report on my patients after having a few days off (boy how I needed those days--I was in the final stages of wedding planning.) Mr. CHF had taken a turn for the worse. The day shift nurse felt sure he had a few more days, but just in case, the Do Not Resuscitate orders had been signed. I finished getting report and headed for his room.
The feisty old guy who had called all the nurses his "girlfriends" looked frail and was barely conscious. I smiled at his wife, asked if I could do anything for her, and told her to call me if she needed me.
About 2:30am a nurse in the telemetry monitor room called to say his heart rate had dropped to 40. I went to check on him and see if there was anything I could do to make him comfortable.
An hour later telemetry called to say his heart rate was in the 30's. The last moments of his life were at hand.
Another hour passed. Telemetry called to say that his heart had stopped.
I went to his room to confirm that his heart had indeed stopped and to wake his wife to tell her to say her final goodbyes.
I returned to the nurses' station to let the widow have a few moments with her husband before the doctor, family and funeral home arrived. After all the phone calls that are required after a person passed away were finished, several co-workers and I went to disconnect all the wires and IVs and clean his body.
I was taking the IV out of his left hand when I saw the plain gold band, scratched and worn from years of wear, on his finger.
Maybe it was the fact that I was about to get married. Maybe I was just having PMS. But I cried for him. I cried for his wife who now had to go home to an empty house and start figuring out how to live without him. I cried for myself and my fear of losing those I love.