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Diary of a Trauma Nurse
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About Me

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 don't. It's not about you or anyone you know. =)


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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Homeless Thomas

If there ever was a trauma patient that touched my life, it was a homeless man named Thomas. I was working step down one day and when I came in to get report, I noticed my first patient kicking, screaming, writhing on the bed, looking like a trapped, wild animal.

"What's up with that" I asked the nurse giving me report? "His haldol has worn off. He's due for more" she said. The night shift nurse offered to "pop" him one more time before she left but I wanted to get a good neuro assessment before putting him back out. "If that was even possible" I thought to myself with a sigh.

I started with my "easier patient" who was on a ventilator and on sedation so I could get a quick assessment and chart it later as there was no telling how long I would be in with "jumping, screaming, kicking, frustrating, test-me-to-my-limits Thomas." Ok, so I've prejudged him. How many of us do that? Yes, we all do at one time or another. Well, this is one time that it kicked me in my butt!

I proceeded to go ahead and draw up my IV Haldol before going in to the room. I seriously doubted I would be able to even get close enough to him to assess him without being strangled by my own stethoscope or kicked in the head or head butted for that matter. As I walked in Thomas noticed the syringe in my hand and he started yelling at me not to give it to him. He was yelling that we were all crazy and trying to kill him. (How often have we heard THAT?) From crazy patients of course. I assured him in my monotone voice that I was not there to kill him, only to calm him down and I wanted to help him. I really did too but I'd gotten a detailed report from the night nurse that he gave her nothing but problems when he was awake, that he was combative, dangerous, etc.

I made a deal with Thomas. If he stopped yelling and calling me crazy, I wouldn't give him the shot (yet!) He wanted me to untie his hands and his feet as well. Ummmm, yeah right! Like THAT is going to happen!!!! We talked for a little longer and I agreed that if he quit kicking and didn't yell anymore I would untie his feet but only if he didn't try to get out of bed. He had been hit by a car and had some pretty severe wounds we were doing frequent dressing changes on, not to mention him desaturating when he would exert himself.

So, after about an hour of sitting with Thomas and talking about the crazy medical staff that worked nights (his words, not mine) hehe, and getting his 02 sats up in the mid 90s, I agreed to take off one wrist restraint. He explained to me how he felt that he was treated like an animal because he was homeless. That made me feel about 2" tall.

I explained to him that I had meds to give to my other patient and that if he would work with me, we could get him totally out of bed, showered, and possibly up in a chair if he didn't act like the crazy man he was acting like when I came in that morning. (He chuckled at that) but agreed. At this time, I had one arm restrained at which any time he could have reached over and removed it with his other hand. But we had an agreement and we were showing one another mututal respect. Wow.

By the time I had spent 8 - 9 hours with my two patients (thank God my second one was on a vent) I had learned a lot. Thomas taught me that his feelings are just as important as mine. His need for respect is just as important as the President's. He falls in love too. He has family the he worries about too. He has pets that he loves just like I do. He taught me that just because someone lives on the street doesn't mean that they don't hurt inside. He taught me if I want to ever do something wonderful for a homeless person, give them a new pair of socks or a pair of gloves. I have never forgotten that.

Thomas kept a book with him that someone had given him sometime before. It is:

Before I left for home that evening, I went in to see him sitting up in his chair, freshly bathed and even with a new haircut (I would do that sometimes when I had the time which was rare.) Imagine the night nurse's SHOCK when SHE came in!!! ha/ha! (BTW..... the haldol had been d/c'd thank you very much.) (I know, night nurses hate day shift nurses like me!)

Anyway, He handed me his book that someone had given him. And on the inside cover he inscribed it. I was prepared to but I have chosen not to print the inscription here because for some reason, I feel it would take away from it's meaning. I don't know if that makes sense, but in rereading it right now, it is very personal and very special. The fact that he gave me his book, The Meaning of Life has changed the way I look at people, places and situations in my life.

Thank you Thomas.

CoryTraumaRN posted today at 10:11 PM

thank you for sharing... that was so inspirational
that is a good story, i realy enjoyed it. i will also look at people, places and situations differently.

I have cared for and appreciated the marginalized and disenfranchised over the years, too. A couple of these stand out in my mind and heart. I feel so strongly about Caring and dignity of every patient, regardless of their state in life. After you collect enough of these experiences, you have enough to put in a book. That's what I did. I never dreamed I'd become an author, but the calling and inspiration were unavoidable. Maybe it is something you could consider, too. With with today's convenient self-publishing abilities and the expanding medium of nurse entrepreneurial ism, this is a realistic goal for you!

I have been working in Nursing since 1979 so I've experienced my fair share of hurts, scrapes, and blows to the heart. I feel these badges of honor make me eligible to share some sage ideas in a book! You are, too!! My book is called Nurses Are From Heaven. My intent is for healing and recognition for Nurses with inspiration for their work.

Please allow me to thank you for all your many contributions to our great profession and for choosing to stick it out. May God bless you in all you do. If I can EVER help you with anything, please let me know.

Christina Feist-Heilmeier
I am a senior in High School and I just finished our senior project involving the career we want to persue after high school.. and I an VERY interested in Nursing. I just wanted to let you know how much you have inspired me even more to persue this career. Iv'e always been pretty interested in trauma, but ever since I read some of your stories of your experiences, it really made me realise how much I want to make a difference in society just like you. I just wanted to thank you for making a difference... I hope I can become like you someday.
Cory I found your site by looking up Trauma Nurse b/c I'm going back to school to become an RN and trauma has always been one of my top interests. I am very familiar with "Thomas" I have alot of them :) I am a Medical Assistant at a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania and after being here over the years I have been burned out over the years but right at that moment where you think you can't deal anymore you get a "Thomas" who at first site you think your time with that patient is going to be horrific but you walk away with a very special lesson learned. Thank you for sharing your stories I can't wait to read the rest.
Sara and Kris: Nursing is such a rewarding career!!! Trauma nursing is one of the MOST rewarding careers ever!

Sara, thank you SO much for saying that you think I make a difference. That is what it is all about. Just making a difference, no matter HOW small in someone's life. You can be better than me someday. Never lose sight of your dreams and always do it for the right reason.

Kris, thank you for being a thankful reader! I hope you enjoyed my other stories!!!

Best of luck! Please keep in touch and let me know what you decide and what you do!!!!

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