She’s fighting back tears, she’s fighting back years
Of the only life she’s ever known
There’s a future that’s bright in the dead of this night,
And all she’s gotta do is go
~Eli Young Band
"I am exhausted… day 3 of 3…day 7 out of the last 9 days" I whined to the nurse charting beside me. I hadn’t done 7 straight but the days off had gone by far to quickly. I stifled a yawn and looked down the hall. A fresh post-op CABG was being wheeled into the unit. I huddled behind my computer….
Maybe I can say I am watching the other patients… Maybe I can pretend I didn’t see him get admitted…Maybe I can avoid helping this one time…
The thoughts circled in my mind. Guilt settled over me as alarms started ringing in the room. Unable to suppress my curiosity I walked to the doorway and hovered for a second before I grabbed gloves and jumped in to help. Blood pressures alarmed as the patient grazed 45/20 and his heart rate jumped to 150. The tall surgeon shook his head and asked for fluids to be given and an epi push to handed to him. I quickly settled into a chaotic camaraderie with the other nurses. We pushed meds, flooded his body with fluid and blood and… made zero headway. We worked with the surgeon, ICU doctor, and cardiologist as they scratched their heads while we drew labs, ran ABGs, titrated drips, and did everything short of compressions. Two hours rushed by in the seconds it felt like we spent at the bedside. After 3 liters of fluid, 4 pressors, 3 units of blood, 3 amps of bicarb, 1 amp of calcium, 2 amps of epi….his pressure hit 90.
The doctors shook their heads and rushed out of the unit exchanging high fives and acting as though the “stability” would last.
I glanced at the other nurses and laughed as the last of the white coats fled the scene.
"Goodness…they sure ran fast. I hope they know he isn’t stable at all."
The charge nurse grinned and the primary nurse shook his head with a smile. We lingered at the bedside to ensure we had done what we could. The primary nurse was wide-eyed and nervous as we discussed different drips. He was supposed to hang fentanyl to help with sedation. I glanced at it and cringed…
"That is going to make his pressure drop again… I would keep the dose low if you can…"
The charge nurse turned and looked at me with an appraising look.
"You are really good. It was like having one of us in here…"
The other nurse nodded and asked.
"You going to stay with us permanently?"
I laughed and shook my head as they both looked at me expectantly.
"Thank you… I am glad I was able to help.. I don’t know what I am going to do…I am just a traveler…" I said averting my eyes.
The charge nurse shook her head.
"No. You aren’t ‘just a traveler’. We have had those… you are different,"
I blushed as I said thank you.
Relief flooded my body at their kind words. As I surveyed the destroyed room I realized… It was one of the few times that I had felt at ease in a month. Discarded gloves littered the floor, syringes lay in disarray, empty medication vials cluttered the shelves and the trash cans overflowed with the relics of a disaster. The hiss of the ventilator and the beep of the monitor were soothing in a bizarre way.
I had been feeling homesick but, I realized that the ICU is my home.
No matter what state, what hospital or what occasion…