That One Incident That Got Me Thinking – Why I Never Healed from All my Wounds As A Nurse

My husband and I recently watched The Green Mile on Netflix two days ago. We went into the movie without reading the synopsis or even watching the trailer, so we didn’t know what to expect. All I know is that it’s a good movie since I’m a fan of Tom Hanks (well, who isn’t?). After a series of heartbreaking moments (Spoiler Alert!), Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) and John Coffey’s (Michael Clark Duncan) conversation, in the end, broke my heart. Spoilers Below, you’ve been warned.

Paul EdgecombOn the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I going to say? That it was my job? My job?

John Coffey: You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’re coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

– The Green Mile

But not everyone is like John Coffey, though I believe (this is just me) that all doctors and nurses would have asked themselves the same question that Paul asked John. What would I say when it’s my turn? I’m not sure, to be honest. I haven’t killed anyone, nor have any plans to do it, but I think I may have done it at some point in my career unknowingly.

All I want to do is save people by giving them the treatment and medications they need, the oxygen to breathe, and a hand to hold on to when they feel scared and alone. But no matter what we do as healthcare professionals with all the marvels of medical technology, if it’s time, it’s time. 

Then when someone dies, we’re not allowed to grieve. We move on to the next patient and tend to the needs of another life that needs saving. 

Then we start asking ourselves, 

“I’m sure I did everything. What did I miss? 

“I gave my everything and made sure that that patient has everything she/he needs.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“What else could I have done?”

“If I have done this, it could have been better.”

These are the questions we ask ourselves every day. And nurses like me will always have that one unanswered question. Mine, in particular, is, ‘Am I one of the reasons he died? Why didn’t I give him the cough syrup he wanted?”

Let me share something. 

There was this one accident that happened recently and made an impact on my fellow healthcare professionals. A 2-year old died from drowning under a capsized boat. They did CPR on her for almost two hours, and worst, a freshman ED doctor was one of the first responders. 

He gave his all to make sure that the lifeless child will see another sunset with her sister. The nurses and the doctors did their best to make sure she gets all the care she needed. However, to their best effort, it was too late. The image of that poor lifeless body will forever be in their minds.

The doctor who told the father that their child was beyond saving was one of the best doctors. He was the captain of sorts for that particular patient (the one calling the shots per se, who decides to continue reviving a patient or when to stop). Imagine being in his shoes with being a new dad. What would he say to God on the day of his judgement? 

After that day, the doctors and nurses had a few rest days to heal and reflect, and I think it’s a must-have for all when something like this happens. I saw the doctor that saved the girl two nights ago and can still see the pain in his eyes. 

However, we’re in the medical field, we can’t show our emotions to other people, we can’t make them feel that we can’t work, we need to be strong – that’s what I think. 

I came from a country that encounters death daily. I’ve seen drug dealers with gunshot wounds, rape victims, relatives of politicians slain in broad daylight, street children ran over by cars, babies found in toilet bowls, and not to mention the number of people who don’t have access to healthcare. So yes, I got used to seeing people dying every single day.

I started thinking, would I also feel the same as my colleagues if I was there with the drowned 2-year-old? I think – I’d manage to work the next day. Then I had a conversation with one of my fellow nurses a few days which made me understand something. 

I never healed from my traumatic event as a nurse before because I never gave myself the chance to heal. 

I think not giving oneself the time to heal is one of the main reason why healthcare workers who worked in countries that don’t get any support from the management are always ill-tempered. They are easily provoked and rush things most days. It’s not only because they want to rest, but also because they don’t want to stay at work so they wouldn’t feel the pain that their patients felt. They don’t bother thinking about the unanswered questions because they’re numb enough to be bothered by them. 

I don’t think I will ever get the answer to my question in this lifetime, nor will I heal from it. Only time can tell, I guess. All nurses and doctors will always have that one patient that whenever they tell people about it, the pain will always be there, in their eyes and voice. 

Side note: I had a patient who came to our ED for dialysis – we were laughing with his wife and children. After a few minutes, he developed shortness of breath and was asking for a cough syrup. I already know that he was having problems because he was late for his dialysis, and fluids were starting to accumulate in his lungs. I gave him oxygen and called the doctor. The doctor then said that it was not his patient. Despite the refusal, I forced him to check on the patient, and he did. The patient was struggling to breathe, and it escalated quickly. I grabbed the doctor by his coat, not caring if it meant suspension or what. I gave the patient medicine that’ll make him pee and said, “this will make you feel better,” but he didn’t pee.

We transferred him into a resuscitation bed where he died. His wife that I was laughing with earlier that day – was shouting and pointing her finger at me saying, that it was my fault, that I said that he would feel better after the medication I gave him

I was crying on my computer, but I can’t let other people and staff see that, so I just stood up, went out and moved on with my day and worked the next day as if nothing happened. 



Credits to American Med Spa for the Photo Thumbnail

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