My name is Cory. I am a mom, a wife, a NaNa, and a critical care nurse that lives in Nashville, TN. I have found my calling in ER/Trauma/ICU. Each day I find myself experiencing life changing events and hope that by reading my posts, you will experience and feel some of what I do. If you read nothing else, please
take time to read "The Hardest Question Ever Asked". It's my very first posting.
And if for some reason you think you see your story here.....you don't. It's not about you or anyone you know. =)
It was Friday night and as we typically did around 11:30, we started getting our empty Trauma beds “set up” for the “witching hour” which was when the bars closed and the worst traumas came to us. We were all pretty relaxed and not expecting much to happen for another 2-3 hours when we got the call from life flight that there was a serious single vehicle MVA gifting us with two victims.
One was a female driver in her early 40’s, Level I trauma, multiple open fractures, severe facial lacerations, internal bleeding, bilateral pneumos, intubated and a head injury of unknown severity. The other: a young female passenger that looked to be about 9 or 10 years old who also had to have bilateral chest tubes placed in the field, was intubated en route to the hospital and was not faring well.
As we were admitting who we found out was the “mother” of the 10 year old little girl and had a blood alcohol level of over 0.48, we found out the little girl died in the E.D. (Legally drunk blood alcohol level for those of you that don’t know is 0.08) So in easy to understand terms, 80 versus 480! Most individuals would potentially succumb to alcohol poisoning at this level.
It turned out this patient was in a coma in our TICU for over a week due to an intracranial hemorrhage. When she finally started following commands and woke to the point of probable extubation, we let her doctor know. His immediate response was, “well let’s go tell her that she killed her daughter!!!” I, along with several other nurses were no less than horrified. Granted, we were more than a little upset the night her daughter died especially when we found out it was due to her being intoxicated.
My question is this: If she had diabetes and her blood sugar dropped to a level that made her non-responsive and wreck her car, would we still storm in and tell her “you killed your daughter?” If she had a massive heart attack due to Coronary Artery Disease, would we storm in and tell her “you killed your daughter?”
Do I condone drunk driving? HELL NO! Not at all. Do I understand that alcoholism is a disease and that some individuals without treatment will never understand their disease and continue to put others at risk? Yes I do. Will they continue to risk losing their children day after day? Losing their spouses? Losing their self respect and their own lives? Yes they will.
Thankfully, we were able to convince this doctor that it would be much more appropriate to let a minister talk to this patient and also to wait until she was extubated which happened that afternoon. This woman will never be able to hold her daughter again, to tell her daughter she loves her, or to have a chance to say she’s sorry. Her daughter's funeral was over before she ever woke up.
To me, that seems like a lifetime of punishment in itself. I can only hope and pray that she has gotten the help she needs so that she no longer has to live in the hell on earth that she has surely created for herself.
CoryTraumaRN posted today at 11:55 PM
Dear Cory, I am a new nurse working in a trauma unit. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs. More often than not I hear the nurses and docs in the unit make unprofessional (or what I consider) comments about patients, especially patients like you mentioned in this blog. This has been a bit of a reality shock to me I guess because I thought that we, nurses & docs, were to care for patients in a nonjudgemental manner. In fact, I have been told I have the "new nurse syndrome" and eventually I will be like the rest of the nurses. I don't ever want to change the way I care for my patients. As a seasoned nurse, is there any advice you can give me?