It is not easy for me to find something that would make me want to squirm. Having been in the medical field for the majority of my life, there is little that I have not seen, heard, or felt. Some being: Projectile diarrhea in my face (don’t ask), treating a woman’s brain at the point that the skull had been removed, and caring for a patient in last hours of vibriosis (a disease contracted by crustaceans.) but the most trying experience made me squirm and stand stunned.
Since my expertise was in Intensive Care, we only admitted the worst cases. This was the worst that I had seen. It was not a case of an accident. No. this patient’s injuries were all self-inflicted. There had been many patients in my past that I had cared for who tried to leave this world in several different ways. But this thirty year old married man with two children sat in his truck in the middle of the night, holding a shot-gun in his mouth. The first shot took his nose off. The second took out an eye. Like most people in these desperate moments, he was more than angry when he finally woke up. Of course our team was thrilled that we were able to save his life.
I was assigned to him because it is not uncommon for nurses to be intolerant of those attempting suicide. I went in to give him some pain medication and adjust his I.V. Where his nose should have been was a crater with muscles and bones exposed, with a bandage to control the bleeding. Inches lower was a void, no lips, no teeth, and no chin. Again there were bandages covering the area that his mouth belonged. His skull and brain were perfectly intact. If given a pen and paper he was able to make his wishes known. After a couple of days, I stopped squirming, and feeling better about changing his bandages twice every shift. He turned out to be a nice person with unimaginable problems.
His oldest boy, nine years old, came three times asking to see his father, but his dad was not ready. The next time his son called first and he said, “yes.” We did our best to cover his face with masks and wash cloths. I went out to talk to the little boy and his mother. His mother refused to go into the room. I tried to explain as well as possible what to expect and that I would be with him for the whole time. He walked up to his father’s bed, stood like a soldier and said, “I love you, Dad.” I know that if he could have, he would have been grinning from ear to ear.