I had the fortunate experience to take care of Mr. B, a 67 year-old post-op thoracotomy patient. This patient had been put in a private room because he was impatient, demanding and demeaning. This was a patient that everyone had taken care of and now it was my turn. At first Mr. B. fit the profile that had been portrayed to me by the night nurse. I had already seen him five times at 0800 while trying to see all my other patients as well. I continued to approach him as though I was happy to be called so often to tend to his needs. I was determined to make him happy so that we could have a good day.
Laura Shays, RN
As the day progressed I could see that this patient was unhappy, not with the staff, but with his lot in life at that moment. He had lung cancer and they were not able to excise all of it. He knew this information and appeared both angry and sad. His family was at the bedside off and on throughout the day and at those times and I observed how happy he was that they were there. His grandchildren would climb up and sit on his bed and he beamed, a proud grandfather.
This particular day, I worked a double, so I observed many of his family members in and out. At one point when everyone had gone downstairs to eat dinner the patient requested to get on the commode. The patient had a chest tube, so I helped him to get OOB and on to the commode. I turned to leave to give the patient some privacy for a few moments and the patient asked me to stay with him. I sat down on the bed and the patient began to sob. He thanked me for being so nice to him and that he didn’t deserve it. He poured his heart out to me telling me about all the things he had kept bottled up inside throughout his life that he regretted. He told me about cheating on his wife, lying to her and his children and many other circumstances that I don’t remember. He was sobbing and worried that he would die alone and remorseful. I held his hand and reminded him about his family that had surrounded him all day. I told him that they were a beautiful family that cared about him and concerned for his well being. He apologized for his behavior and asked for forgiveness. I told him that there was nothing to forgive, that I understood how hard it is to be a patient and to depend upon others for what you need. We sat there in partial darkness for about a half an hour while he shared his feelings and thoughts with me. When he was done he thanked me again for listening. I told him I was glad he felt comfortable enough with me to share all that he had and I hoped it helped.
I took care of this patient for the next several days and observed a very different patient. He was thankful for all that everyone did for him. His general mood improved. He was up out of bed without any prodding, happy to be using his incentive spirometer and to be on the road to recovery.
This patient was back two more times to our unit, then died six months later. That was the first time I cried when learning about a former patient’s death. I prayed for him and thanked God for the experience of having him as a patient.
Laura Shays, RN, 23 South