Almost Drowning

The other night at work was the worst day of my nursing career up to this point.

I started off with three little kiddos, and about halfway through the shift one little guy really took a turn for the worst.  The respiratory therapist, the charge nurse, and myself were all in the room with this kid and I told the charge nurse exactly what had changed so quickly with this baby and why I was concerned.  I ended up calling the doctor to come take a look at the kid.  I was also instructed to hand over care of one of my healthier babies to another nurse, so that I could focus more on the sicker kid.

Once the doctor arrived things got crazy.  All of a sudden there were tons of labs and x-rays ordered, and the surgeon came in to take a look.  Baby ended up intubated (breathing tube), and as we worked I noticed that this baby was now practically limp – earlier in the day he was a spitfire.  Things were definitely getting worse in a hurry.  The parents were called in, and there were so many orders swirling around that I got utterly and completely lost.  I did what I could to help this kid, but a lot of this his care was done by other nurses who knew more of what to do.

It was a long evening, and I didn’t get any breaks, so low blood sugar made things so much worse.  I might also have had a migraine, but since my migraines resemble low blood sugar symptoms, I’m not completely sure.  I was stressed, tired, and borderline hypoglycemic, and so when one kind nurse asked me if I was okay, I burst into tears.  I managed to pull myself together enough to finish the shift, but I was just done.  I was done with the doctor getting frustrated when things weren’t done on time (not our fault, by the way).  I was done with being in over my head.

It was slightly embarrassing to have everyone who looked at me instantly know that I had been crying (tears, swollen eyes and red nose are sort of difficult to hide), but after a while I gave up caring.  Many nurses told me that I had every reason to be stressed and to cry.  Plus, crying is sort of my go-to stress response… I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

One of the ladies from our residency group had been working around the corner from me that evening and had helped out a bit when things got really crazy.  At some point during the evening she texted our residency group (we have an ongoing group text, you see) and said that I was having a terrible night, that one of my kids was sick, and that I was doing a million things at once.  Almost instantly everyone else in the group texted their sympathy, support, and encouragement.

When I got out to my car and read these messages, I was floored.  My spot in this group has always been the quiet one on the outskirts of the crowd, the one who tends to be forgotten, and so the friendship and support was a bit of a surprise and a huge encouragement  (more on our group dynamic in a later post).  And to those of you reading this who know me personally – don’t laugh!  Yes, sometimes I can be the quiet and shy one!

The next day the charge nurse from the previous evening told me that the situation had gotten really crazy really fast that night, and that if she had know it would get that bad, she wouldn’t have had me continue caring for that kid; they would have given him to someone else with more experience.  Then she said that before I knew it I would be handling situations like that “with aplomb” (her word, not mine).  I am glad to know that I can survive insane situations like that one, but I hope to not see it again for a while :1

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