When I started to think about a special post to write for Thanksgiving, I tried to remember a time when I really grew as a nurse. There was no question in my mind about a certain patient that was instrumental in that growth. The crazy thing was I never even knew her.
It started out like any other shift – I was assigned two patients (we were fully staffed), a wonderful leader and my former preceptor was our charge nurse for the evening, and a team of interns and residents who had been in our Medical Intensive Care Unit for a few weeks were working. All the beds were full and none of our patients were up for transfer out of the unit, so it seemed like we were in for a calm shift.
Linda was a young woman who had a uterine rupture during childbirth and had lost a lot of blood. She subsequently developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and had come to our unit about 2 weeks prior to this particular evening for intubation and management of her ARDS. She had no significant past medical history, no known allergies, and had an uncomplicated pregnancy with regular prenatal care.
During change-of-shift report, I learned from the day shift nurse that the MICU team had met with Linda’s family that day after a neurological exam and testing had revealed that Linda was brain dead. The family had decided to gather together this evening and we’d remove Linda from the ventilator. They had also requested to donate her organs.
A representative from Gift of Life arrived shortly after the start of my shift and the family started to drift in as well. Never had I been part of such an emotional patient experience. The strength and courage of the family of this young woman – this new mother – was incredible. While their grief was palpable in the room, so was their faith. They verbalized gratitude at being fortunate enough to be able to donate several of Linda’s organs and saw this as a way to continue her life.
So, this special thank you goes out to Linda and her family…
Thank you for allowing me to be part of that night.
Thank you for sharing your faith with me.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me.
Thank you for teaching me that death, even a tragic one, can give us strength that we might not even know is within us.
Thank you for thinking of others and giving life.