Can’t Put it Into Words

We had a code the other night.  It was by far the “best” code I’ve ever been privy to.  No yelling orders, no standing around waiting, no egos, just a concerted effort to save a dying (well, dead) patient.  The resident running the code was calm, cool and collected.  As we did our interventions he worked through the H’s & T’s trying to figure out if we could fix anything.  Outside of my ACLS megacode, I’ve never seen that.  But moreso, he asked the staff if there was anything that we thought he had missed.  And before he called it, he aksed if anyone else had any objections.  Truly it was a team effort.

But for some reason I can’t seem to shake it off.  I had no real connection to the patient, other than being the charge nurse.  They weren’t one of our frequent flyers.  But something reached ahold of me and won’t seem to let go.

Maybe it was the fact we found her already down in her room.  Or the fact I felt the ribs snap under my palms.  Or it was that we did CPR on her for 30 minutes, rotating between 2, then three of us.  Or that we threw everything in the code cart at her, and some things that weren’t,  but nothing seemed to help.  Our CPR was some of the best I’ve ever seen/felt.  We shocked her a total of 9 times.  She got tubed incredibly quick.  But it didn’t seem to matter.

For the last couple of nights, I’ve laid awake and thought about it.  Re-running it over in my head, which then sparks memories of other codes and then to the memory of running in to see them performing CPR on my little girl.  For some reason, this one cracked my shell.  Like the title says, I can’t put words to the feeling.

Maybe though, it re-affirms that I am human and that I do care, something that I’ve been feeling a great distance from.  Maybe I’ve grown cold over it all- something my wife mentioned in passing not too long ago.  Maybe this nagging sense of malaise over this event is me re-examining myself over this coldness and cynicism and the realization that I’ve moved that direction has left me a little out of sorts.  More than anything though, it serves as a reality check, a visceral reminder of what we do as nurses when things do go south.

I know with time this angst and malaise over it will fade.  I’ll make peace with the way I feel about it, but like all the others, I’ll never forget.

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3 Comments

  1. Do you think that this one is bothering you because it was the “best” code you’ve ever experienced? You all threw your best work at this patient, and it still failed. I know that sounds backwards — we normally crucify ourselves over mistakes. Just thinking…

    Reply

  2. I realized I have passed some RN threshold of insensitivity, when, last Friday I watched the code blue from about 15 feet out. People were busy, everything was tried, a bloody femoral line was placed. All while the patient was on the floor, in front of the desk area. A nurse friend from another ward came over to ask some questions. Then we arranged to have tea next Monday, talking about good times for getting together, while the code was still ongoing.
    The patient’s sister arrived to see the poor guy on the floor, a crowd of young fresh-faced doctors and nurses working on him. I helped the sister by sitting her down and talking, and listening, to her. I helped her call other family members since she was shaking. But I was aware that I was not as emotionally involved as I used to be. Is that burn-out, or what? I mean the guy was about 40, going home later that day but just fell over while walking in the hallway, dead.
    The Tea and mini sandwiches were delightful.

    Reply

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