"I once had a 36-year-old female patient who had been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in her eighth week of pregnancy.
The woman and her husband had been trying for a baby for 10 years at this point. We advised her to terminate the pregnancy so that we could pursue an aggressive treatment but she refused.
She was induced at 32 weeks and her entire abdomen was overcome with malignant tumors. The cancer had spread to her lungs and bones. The baby was born, sent to NICU, and the mom was sent home on hospice. She died three weeks later.
The baby is doing fine now and just celebrated its first birthday."
"A family brought in this 10-year-old saying he was suicidal.
We had to interview the parents and the stepmom refused to let the dad answer questions and kept saying that the kid was a huge problem and he needed to stay there all weekend so he wouldn't ruin her weekend plans.
We tried to figure out what coping mechanisms the kid has and neither parent could even say what the kids liked to do for fun. They said they didn't let him play until he finished all of his chores. It was obvious the stepmom was abusing the child and the dad wasn't stopping her.
Child services and police were both brought in to interview the parents. It was really stressful for everyone at the hospital because the parents were almost trying to get rid of the kid."
"My mom is a caregiver, so not really a nurse but still helps out with injured and elderly people. She had this one person that was really nice and she liked, but Alzheimer's was starting to take its toll on her mind. She and my mom got along well and bonded over their love of the show Bones, which they often watched together.
After a while, she started to forget or confuse things and would get really upset about them. My mom voiced her concerns to the woman's kids about the declining mental health of someone she considered somewhat a friend to her children, but they wouldn't listen and said things like, 'Oh, she's always been forgetful.' Her employers wouldn't listen, either, because as long as the woman herself or her children who were paying weren't complaining, then it was still something they could handle or whatever.
One night, things finally escalated when the woman freaked out and did not recognize who my mom was at all. She started screaming all these really cruel/slightly bigoted things and telling her to get out of her home and that she was calling the cops. My mom went outside and followed company policy for such incidents, which involved calling the family and her employers and informing them of the situation. The cops came and my mom explained the situation to them, which thankfully they were really understanding about, and the whole thing was eventually worked out.
After that, the children finally decided it was time to take her to an around the clock care facility with licensed professionals. It shook my mom, though, because she got along so great with this woman, and to see her just completely not recognize her and berate her was shocking.
It also worried her in case that could be her in the future because it runs in her side of the family, which is definitely a scary thought."
"I work as a nurse in a cath lab. I was once was on call when we got a patient with a massive heart attack, no chance of a sinus rhythm so far and he was incredibly hard to resuscitate because he had had a coronary bypass and the bones in his chest were fused together like a knight's armor. This was a relatively young man in my line of work, and couldn't be any older than his mid-50s. He died in the lab.
It turns out he had a heated argument with his grown-up son that night when he collapsed and had the heart attack. Apparently, a couple of days later, his son hanged himself in the woods near where they lived."
"There has never been anything as emotionally tough as dealing with the 12-year-old who crashed an ATV on a co-worker's property. He was declared brain dead the next morning. The staff lined the halls for an honor walk as his bed rolled by to the operating room for an organ procurement.
As the father of two young boys myself, I broke down and cried as the mother said goodbye. She adjusted his blanket to keep him warm and kept telling him, 'It'll be ok. I'll see you later. It'll be ok.'"
"A man was discharged from a mental health facility a few days before coming to see me. He went home and built a weapon in his garage out of pipes and proceeded to shoot himself in the chest. His wife called EMS. He was talking when he came into the emergency room and asked for water because he was thirsty. This is usually the first sign someone isn't going to make it. The CT scan showed there was a bullet in the heart. He was rushed into the operating room.
The trauma surgeon split the ribs and was feeling around for where the bullet went. Meanwhile, the front desk was trying to get ahold of the cardiovascular surgeon on call. He was out of town and said to call one of his partners. The first partner was also out of town, the second and third were both an hour away at other hospitals.
The trauma surgeon found a hole in the left ventricle. I was able to get ahold of another surgeon who wasn't on call but was only 20 minutes away. He said the patient needed to get a bypass if there was any chance, but he would probably end up dying anyway. Anesthesia was on a massive transfusion protocol, but his vitals were not improving. The surgeon opened the pericardium and it sounded like a water balloon hitting the pavement. In an instant, a liter of crimson blood poured out of the drapes and onto the floor. Anesthesia called out that there was no pulse. Another liter and a half poured from the drapes. We knew where all the blood went.
The next two hours included filling out paperwork and calling the medical examiner. I had to speak to the widow and his mother about signing the forms for the ME because his death was going to have to be investigated by the county. I still had to get the meat wagon from the morgue and put him on ice. My shift ended three hours prior, but it was my death in my OR, so I was responsible for all the details and paperwork."
"One day on shift, I responded to a duress alarm on another ward (one nurse from each ward responds to duress from any ward). A female patient on a psychiatric intensive care unit had become violent and could not be de-escalated. It was decided that physical restraint and intramuscular medication would be needed to settle her down.
As the team of five nurses approached her, she was standing there with her legs apart and shouting at us. Just as we stepped into her space to initiate the restraint, she stuck her fingers into her junk (she was menstruating at the time) and managed to stick them into the mouth of one of the female nurses doing the restraint. The patient was extremely amused. The nurse vomited after the restraint and had to leave for the day.
That's just one of the really bizarre moments I have working as a mental health nurse."
"My mom was a night shift emergency room nurse before I was born, and this is what she told me was one of her worst nights.
One night, they brought in this guy on something, they didn't know what exactly, but he was going buck wild. They left him restrained and alone in one area of the hospital to sober up and hopefully be manageable by dawn. Eventually, my mom went on a break to eat. She got her food out of the break room in the area of the hospital the previously mentioned guy was and ate in there.
Eventually, she smelled something burning, went outside to check on what it was, turned out the guy had a lighter he wiggled out of his pocket and began to burn off the restraints. She knew she couldn't stop him at this point, so she ran to the doors to alert security. In some twisted horror movie series of events, the doors were locked but she saw someone at a desk on the other side. Too late, the patient had freed himself and was going to start chasing my mom.
She outran him and managed to bang on the door once she made a lap around the area. Not enough time to get help on her first lap, she ran off again still being pursued by the maniac she was locked up with. The third time was the charm, she was far enough ahead of him and the doors were unlocked and ready for her. By this point, the cops had already arrived and two officers went through the doors to restrain him and take him in, the third talked to her and comforted her.
That officer was the man she later married and had a child with. Eventually, she also later divorced him, but still considered it a great night because it led to the existence of her child, me."
"My cousin is a nurse and a tough chick that isn't an emotional type, but this whole situation affected her for a few days after.
A single parent father and 15-year-old daughter were having a really heated argument, and in the middle of them arguing, he started to have a heart attack. The ambulance took him to the hospital and he ended up losing his life.
When the daughter arrived, my cousin had to tell the daughter her father didn't make it. The girl then ran over to him and just collapsed on the floor screaming and bawling her eyes out because her father was gone forever, and she was the reason he died."
"I am a nurse for a home hospice center. My assignment was a 13-hour shift with a 10-year-old patient suffering from brain cancer.
He was unresponsive, but still breathing when I arrived. He was basically gone, but his body hadn't figured that out yet. The tiny little guy was in a big hospital bed, and his mom was lying in the bed beside him. His dad was on his other side holding his hand. His grandparents were in the adjoining living room with the boy's 6-year-old sister.
Getting through that shift took all the mental and emotional strength I had. He died a few hours after my shift ended. I will gladly deal with blood, vomit, puss, feces, and whatever else rather than go through something like that ever again."
"I helped deliver a premature child that was addicted to an assortment of substances. The mom also told us that she had been drinking heavily throughout the pregnancy and that it was her third baby to be delivered in two years like this.
The poor baby had tremors so bad from withdrawal she looked like she was having seizures. Their poop in the first few days of life is so acidic from everything in their system that it eats their bottoms and causes terrible skin conditions. She was projectile vomiting and inconsolable with a high-pitched cry the entire time.
She's my sweet lil honey and I would have taken her home to foster if I could. She went home with an aunt and uncle. From what I've gathered, they also have custody of her sister. The aunt seemed nice enough but it's hard to know what she'll be going home to, complex social issues with that family. Trying to have faith that the state has a good handle on things. I sent her home with a scrapbook of her time at the Nicu, pictures of her at milestones like hitting 4 pounds, her first bath, getting her NG out, etc. Hopefully, later she'll know and feel she was loved in her first formative weeks of life. She went home two days ago, I miss her already."
"There was a freak accident last summer where a teenage boy drowned in water. He was dead before he arrived and they could not bring him back/get his heart beating again.
I was standing by with my machine outside the room waiting to go in when the doctor told the mom and a sibling that he was dead and that there was nothing they could do. The mother basically let out an uncontrollable screech until all the air in her lungs were gone, curled over, vomited, and collapsed to the ground and passed out for a brief moment.
True heartbreak is the worst. I've seen a lot of people break down and that's what gets to me the most. Of course, it is sad when someone dies, but when it's an 80-year-old that has been battling cancer or some other disease, it's different. When it's an unexpected loss and heartbreak, it's very intense and disturbing. It's something that no dramatic movie has ever even come close to creating in comparison to the real thing."
"When I was a clinical intern, a lady walked into the emergency room triage area and said she needed to be seen. I could tell she wasn't all there mentally by the way she was talking, but I proceeded to take her vitals.
As I reached for her arm to took off the blood pressure cuff, she snapped and started yelling at me, telling me that I was just going to assault her. The triage nurse asked her to calm down and take a seat. She proceeded to yell the most obscene things I had ever heard. She tried to escape, but she just went deeper into the ER main area. Security came and tried to calm her down and she kept yelling that all they wanted to do was assault her. She kicked the security guard in the groin and proceeded to run away.
Fortunately, she slipped and was subdued by other security guards, and was then taken to the psych evaluation area of the hospital."
"I treated a 32-year-old male had a bad motorcycle accident and was in our trauma ICU for over a month. He barely made it and was somewhat miraculous. He ended up with a tracheostomy but was on his way to being able to discharge to rehab.
I had taken care of him three days in a row, and the last day, late in the shift, he stood up and coughed hard, and all of a sudden blood starting spurting out of his trach. We got him in bed quick, and within a minute or so, he started coding (cardiac arrest). We called for trauma and ENT surgeons and started mass transfusing blood while coding him. His family was screaming and being walked out of the room.
We were slipping on blood on the floor while we were trying to keep coding, holding pressure on his neck because we didn't know what else to do. One nurse thought he stopped bleeding. He did because he fully bled out. We finally called it after about 45 minutes.
He had a fistula which burst (artery around the trach that was worn down by the pressure inside the trach cuff) from a combination of persistent hypertension, a strong cough, and bad luck. This is extremely rare.
Nurses were sitting on the floor crying and same with the doctors. It was a terrible night and a terrible couple weeks following."
"When I worked at the Bexar County Hospital, there was the farmer who had his legs and junk pulled off his hips and groin when he fell into some sort of thresher. He never lost consciousness until he went to surgery and rarely asked for pain meds. He was calm, collected, and motivated to move on the entire time he was on the unit and afterward. One of the most stoic and brave patients I've ever met. He and his wife would bring us food a few times a year after that.
He was one of the most memorable patients I ever had and not just because of his horrendous injuries. He was about 33 or so, really fit, and he was very funny as well. Never complained about what happened to him. Patients are seldom in an ICU longer than a few weeks. I think he was there for about three weeks because he had to keep going back for reconstructive surgeries and bone grafts. He was a tough dude. His wife was a bombshell, too! She stuck by him as far as I knew. She was very nice and always grateful. She liked to cook and brought big lunches and dinners for the entire unit from time to time, even the 11-7 shift. They were still coming around every once in a while when I finally moved away.
Then there was the night a butane truck exploded in Eagle Pass, Texas, and we had to move out the entire unit to Intermediate in order to receive nine badly burned people. Seven were dead within a few days, another one died after about two weeks. The 14-year-old boy had bad second-and-third-degree burns over most of his body. Debridement was terrible agony. He fought and fought for two months despite the horrible pain. But one day he told a doctor, 'I give up,' and he died a few days after that. He refused to cooperate with treatment, eat anything or even SAY anything. I think he willed himself to die. That one has stuck with me through the years. His name was Manuel. I watched way too many young people, not much younger than me at the time, die in truly horrible ways."
"The worst smelling thing was a homeless man who came in with what looked like moon boots on his feet except they were surgical boots that he placed foam around and duct tape. They hadn't been removed for about three months. He was also diabetic and had ulcers on his feet. We had to cut them off to be able to see what was happening, and once we did, the smell permeated the entire emergency room.
To top it off, maggots were just falling off his feet and wiggling on the ground. He was yelling down the hall and was rude to everyone but me, and would only let me take care of him. He ended up refusing care and insisted that we tape his shoes back on and let him leave. Management finally agreed, and we sent him off.
Saddest stories always involve kids. I once treated a 6-year-old who had been shot during a drive-by and was being coded by the time she arrived. She didn't make it and hearing the mother hear the news and screaming from down the hall will stick with me forever."
"While doing our mental health rotation, we learned of a lady who was severely abused as a baby and child. She was very easy to talk to and charismatic, but while talking to her one on one sitter, she literally pulled out a nail from a chair with her fingernails and shoved it into a wound she made on her belly. She also had wounds surgically repaired that she would then rip right open and shove anything and everything she could find into it so she would have to be taken back to surgery.
During nursing school, we had a group watching a doctor replace a gastric tube that had become clogged. Even though I was farthest away of the 15 students observing, I was hit in the face and eye with gastric juices from this patient. The doctor pulled it out, and it flung all the way across the room to where I was standing next to the door. I had to stop clinical and go to the employee health office to get checked out and have my eyes flushed.
Not as bad, but it was the only time so far that poop smell really got to me. I had a patient tell me she was clogged back there, but she had dementia and I just hadn't checked her yet. It was on my list to do, but she wanted to try going to the bathroom. Well, after a few minutes of her being on the commode we walk into her sticking her fingers up her butt and flinging poo off them. We make her stop, and have her lay in the bed so I can instead dig her out. I was six months pregnant and started dry heaving nonstop. Luckily a coworker popped her head in and offered to finish for me. Sadly, she passed about two weeks later."