Thursday, June 17, 2004

PICU Nurse

I am a licensed RN in the state of Illinois but have not been working as a nurse for the past year or so. Nursing is an extremely tough field to work in and burn-out is frequent. By the grace of God, though, I've been gifted with the ability to write well and this has helped me through some of the really horrible times I've experienced, especially as a pediatric ICU nurse (PICU).

My first job out of college was working at Children's Memorial Medical Center in Chicago, under Dr. Noah, in PICU. What a great hospital this is and what a wonderful teacher Dr. Noah was! I'll never forget my first day on the unit. I was asked to help an experienced nurse care for a 2yo Hispanic boy who'd fallen out of a four story window in a housing project in downtown Chicago. (Unfortunately, this happens frequently enough that we were taught that children falling out of windows was a seasonal thing, occurring during the summer months.)

This poor little one was dying quickly from massive head trauma but his mother wasn't willing to give us permission to stop CPR because she & the boy's father were going through a divorce and she was unable to reach him. It was so awful because the more we pumped fluids into his poor broken body, the faster it poured out from his head wound. What was worse was that doing CPR just pumped it out faster. You can imagine how overwhelmed I felt watching this drama unfold. I wasn't really caring for the boy, just was filling syringe after syringe of albumen to give to the other nurse, so that she could give it through the IV. I also gave whoever was doing chest compressions a break now and then. It was an overwhelmingly helpless feeling to be unable to do anything worthwhile, especially since I'd chosen to work in pediatrics because of my love for kids.

The sorrow I felt while we were doing CPR was nothing compared to the overwhelming sadness I felt once the child was declared dead. This sorrow was exasperated by the family coming in to say goodbye to him, because Hispanic families are so vocal in their sorrow. I found myself trying desperately not to cry because I didn't want my co-workers to think I couldn't take working in this environment. But soon I was surrounded by staff members, patting me on my back and telling me that it was ok to cry, that they all had done so during their first experiences with death. They told me that I'd done well and that it had been a horrible first experience. As I began walking around the unit to shake off the sadness that was gripping me, I saw a bell hung on the wall and under it was a plaque. The plaque had a poem on it. Unfortunately, I can't remember the words, just the essential message which spoke of the PICU being a "ship whose good captain was named Noah". It spoke of the triumphs of overcoming that kids went through in surviving death and going home. Then it spoke of the other triumph, when kids are lost but pass on into the arms of Jesus, overcoming death. It stated the bell was to be rung in both cases (when a child was healed and discharged from the hospital, and when they went to be with our Lord Jesus).

I slowly reached up and rang the bell twice, for each year of this little lovely, broken boy's life. Thus I became a PICU nurse at the finest hospital in Chicago.

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