15 May, 2008

Here's to happy endings


I don't blog much about my work. I read lots of nursing & medical blogs, it's just that I never set out to write about my experiences. I think they would have been much more interesting 20 years ago when I was a young, energetic thing. These days, however, it's more about how life in general fucks me off. Every now and then, though, something happens that can't go unmentioned.

We'll go back about 6 months. It was a busy Friday and I was working as an anaesthetic nurse on a torturous urology list. I love the anaesthetist, hate the surgeon. Anyway, back in the pre op area I introduced myself to my next patient and his wife. We'll call them David and Sarah Levy. David was a Jewish gentleman in his early 70s, he'd had a heart attack 10 years previously but declared himself to be fit and well.

Everything went well, David went to sleep without a problem, the op was done and he went into Recovery. I carried on with the list but one of the Recovery nurses came to get the anaesthetist. I followed her in. It was David. Three of the Recovery nurses were in attendence, the curtains were round the bedspace and the Rescus trolley was pulled in close. David looked .......well, like shit, really. An ECG was being done, bloods were being taken. The cardiologist was being called. To cut a long story short, David was having a heart attack.

Seeing that the other nurses had the situation under control I immediately went to the head of the bed, bent down and spoke to him gently. He told me that his chest was hurting. I reassured him and told him we'd take care of him. Fortunately for David our department is handily situated close to a Cardiac Cath lab and within 15 minutes he was moved straight in for an angioplasty.

Remember Sarah? She's sitting in the waiting room. I went out to get her and bring her into the sisters office. As I walked towards her she half rose and looked panicked. "Sarah, could you come with me for a minute, please?"

"What's wrong? What's wrong? Why won't you tell me what's wrong?" she whispered. I told her that there was a bit of a problem but the doctor was coming to talk to her. I sat with her as a doctor she'd never met before explained that her husband was having a heart attack and was about to have a procedure to see what could be done to help. The cardiologist explained the procedure to Sarah and asked her to sign the consent form. She did so but I'm she hadn't taken it all in. I was left with her in the sisters office and saw a woman fall apart. She sobbed. She pleaded. She bargained. She did it all. "He can't go yet, he can't go, we have so much to do, so much to do. He can't go yet."

I helped her to ring one of her sons, I stayed with her till he came. I held her hand and listened as she talked about her life with David. They had a good marriage, a comfortable home. They'd raised two sons and were grandparents. They were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary soon and were planning a cruise.

Sarah's son arrived. The situation was explained, he looked shellshocked and called his brother. I went out to find out what was happening so that I could give them a progress report. I walked into the cath lab to find a full blown cardiac arrest in progress. David was the patient. Cutting through the jargon, David's heart had stopped during the procedure and he was defibrillated 5 times before it started again. I couldn't believe that this man, who had come in for a simple procedure, was now on the brink of death. I went back into the room and lied to Sarah, I wasn't quite sure what was happening but that someone would come and talk to us soon. Not long after, the door opened. The cardiologist sat down. He explained that David was very sick indeed and his only option was emergency bypass surgery.

A man comes into hospital for a relatively straightforward procedure and within hours his wife is being told that he's fighting for his life.

She signs the form with a shaking hand, he's taken immediately to the operating theatre and the procedure goes ahead. At the end of the shift I went up to the waiting room of intensive care to see her. She's surrounded by family. She's pale and she's been crying but she takes my hand and thanks me. I tell her I'll see her soon.

On my way home I pass a synagogue. Now, I'm not religious. Or so I thought. I've walked past this synagogue every day for years and I've never seen a rabbi. Walking along the road I look up and see a man standing in front of me. He's holding what looks like a religious book. He has a kind face.

"Excuse me, are you a rabbi?"
"Yes, I am. Can I help?"
"Well, it's not for me but can you pray for someone for me?"
"Of course. What's the persons name?"
"His name is David Levy. He's having a heart operation right now."
"I'll do that for you. I'm on my way to the synagogue right now. Are you a friend?"
"No, not really. Thank you."

On Saturday the unit manager called me at home. The operation had been a great success. I went to see David and Sarah on the Monday. He looked wonderful. I told them the rabbi story and they roared laughing. David had no memory of the event whatsoever. A week later a very nice bottle of Chandon arrived for me with a thank you note. And that was that.

Moving forward to today and David and Sarah are back. He looked amazing. I wasn't his nurse today but spent time with both of them. Later, I was walking through Recovery when one of the nurses called me over. She had David and he was asking for me. He pulled up his oxygen mask.

"Tell Sarah I'm alive." He winked and closed his eyes.

I walked out into Reception and saw Sarah. We locked eyes and she half rose, tears in her eyes. For a split second I remembered the last time we'd done this and I know she was thinking the same.

"I've got a message for you. He said to tell you he's alive." She laughed and we had a little hug. I left her smiling and taking her mobile phone out of her handbag.

Today was a bloody great day.

*I've just remembered something. I was talking to Sarah as we waited for her son to arrive. She told me that she hadn't been able to sleep the night before David's operation. She couldn't put her finger on it but she had an uneasy feeling that something terrible was going to happen. How's that for instinct?*


HH said...

SSS, thanks for sharing, what a beautiful story...you did a wonderful thing for those people

Foodycat said...

I have tears in my eyes. That is a bloody great day! And sort of crystallises what you were saying about nursing on Flo's birthday.

NiC said...

What a heart warming story, thanks for sharing it with us.


SSS said...

Thanks, everyone.

I thought that too, Foodycat.

mscrankypants said...

Lovely story, and touching that you had the chance to make a difference to their lives. I bet it made their day too when you remembered them after such a long time.

Jacki said...

Such a wonderful story. I am glad they had you there in their time of panic and grief!
Those sort of days make all the work crap worth it!

SSS said...

You know, I can't read it without smiling. It was all so horrible and he very nearly didn't make it.

I know it sounds trite but it really reminded me of how fragile we all are.

Ambridge Fan of Chelmsford said...

Who'd have thought the little girl with the blond curls and an obsesion with looking in the mirror would grow up to such a bloody marvellous human being. Religious ? Dunno, but spiritual ? I think so - to be a lapsed Mohammedan you have to have believed in the first place - perhaps thats where you get it from

SSS said...

I would imagine that almost everything I am comes from there. And now we're the only two people who have any idea what I'm talking about.