Early in my nursing career, I cared for Betsy Mercer, a young mother of six and seven-year-old boys who had lost her baby when the placenta detached before delivery. She was catastrophically ill, suffering every complication. I dialyzed her for weeks while she was on the ventilator in ICU as she went from bad to worse to worse. The only thing in her favor was her previous good health and the fact that she was a mother. As a mother, I identified with the grief she’d feel at the loss of her little girl when she finally regained consciousness, and regretful that two little boys were likely to lose their loving mother. I sang to Betsy and talked to her as though we were friends every day. “Betsy, Your husband brought these pictures of your boys today. They are so cute. He said they miss you but Grandma Sweet is getting them to and from school. Joey made you this bracelet and Kerry drew you a picture of your family. He drew you the biggest. He must really love you.”
I put the bracelet in her wrist every day when I was with her and posted the kid’s art where she could see it when she was turned to the left. Patients who can’t move are repositioned often to keep their skin healthy and to help prevent pneumonia. Late one Thusday I finished my shift and told Betsy I’d but would see her Tuesday morning after my long weekend, though I had little hope she’d be there.
I went back to the ICU to check on Betsy before my shift Tuesday morning. My heart fell when I saw someone else in her room. I felt just awful till I asked her nurse when she’d died.
“Oh, Betsy rallied midday Friday. She didn’t need dialysis and got off the ventilator Saturday night. By Monday, she was so much better, she moved out to the obstetrical floor.
I was ecstatic at her recovery, and meant to visit her in her room, but didn’t get up there. About six weeks later, a beautiful young woman stopped off at our unit to visit. It was Betsy, fully recovered come to pay her caregivers a visit. I’d never have known her. It was such a joy to see her returned to health and her family. It’s days like these that keep nurses coming back.