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*A group of nurses sit in the break room*

Me: “If another person asks me what the worst thing it is that I’ve seen…”

Nurse #2: “OMG I KNNOOOOWWW!”

Me: “The answer is really never as exciting as what they’re looking for.”

Nurse #1: “Right?  They expect you to say this awful thing…”

Nurse #2: “But instead you say something boring like bed 18’s respiratory secretions.”

Nurse #1: “OMG that man is disgusting.”

Me: “People are so gross.”

Unified response: “Yep”

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It is true that you see a lot of weird, gross stuff in the hospital mainly because people are weird and gross.  But a bone sticking out of an arm isn’t crazy; you expect just that when someone is run over by a train.  A bullet in the gut isn’t that insane when someone shoved a gun up their ass.  Brains exposed?  Well, the concrete did smash their head open so that would be considered a normal side effect.

The most disgusting things you see are the things that are unexpected.  The things that make you realize your preconceptions of fundamental life events, such as life and death, are wrong.  The faith you hold in people, the sacred beliefs that are shattered once you witness first hand how things happen in real life; those are the moments your mind can’t shake.

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Life

I’ve seen some painful looking surgeries but a c-section by far is the worst.  They are so rough on that woman’s body; stretching, pulling, jiggling, flip-flopping fat around, manipulating internal organs, pushing them this way and that way, taking them out sometimes, putting them back in.  The surgeon does this so lightening fast that before anyone can say, “Uh, may want to be kind of gentle there, doc” a baby pops out and everyone is side-tracked.  In fact, I feel everyone is so distracted by the fact that a baby is being birthed that they don’t seem to notice the violent nature of the procedure.

Birth may be painful, prolonged and at times dangerous but we rarely associate the process with words like, “violent,” “brutal” or “extraction.”  Those words are torturous in nature.  Watch a few c-sections from start to finish (not just from start then fast forward to when mom holds baby) and you’ll start to catch my drift.

 

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Death

I think I would rather drown at sea than die in a hospital bed.  I can’t describe to you how utterly horrifying it is to witness a full code in a hospital room.  The families don’t know how horrible it is because they are too distracted by the fact their loved one just died.  But I know.  The medical professionals know because we know all the mistakes we make during a process that’s riddled with problems.

The patient stops breathing.  There’s no pulse.  Chest compression begins.  Code blue is heard over the intercom.  Ten plus nurses run in with the crash cart.  Someone cuts open the gown, the other gets the defibrillator pads, another is calling the doctor, another is yelling for meds; in 5 minutes there are so many unnecessary people in the room you find yourself barricaded to the point of helplessness.

The doctor checks a radial pulse and it makes you want to scream.  Don’t you know you have to check the carotid pulse during a code, doc?  He calls time of death.  People step back.  But wait, was that just a breath I saw?  The family member cries out, “Dear Lord Jesus, mama is still alive, God help us, she’s breathing!”  *Gheezus, who left the daughter in the room?*

Agonal breaths.  The patient is dead but no one is willing to say it.  The mayhem continues until suddenly:

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“Don’t touch her,” the doctor screams!  She’s a DNR, step back!”  *Gheezus, that would have been good to know 20 minutes ago.*  Blood pools out of the patient’s mouth, down her face, neck, exposed breasts.  She’s an obese woman, her arms hang off the side of the bed, her legs twisting in an unnatural position.  Why is she bleeding like that?  The nurse objects, “I can’t just leave her here like this, let’s try something!”  An argument ensues.  The nurse starts crying.  The doctor keeps yelling.  People stand motionless, shoulder to shoulder, afraid to move, afraid to not move; a kind of awkward dawdling ensues.

And all the while, the woman lays motionless, soaked in her own blood.  Dying.  These were her last moments on earth.  These were the last moments we gave her.  Shameful.

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