Repressed memories of a tragic ICU assignment. A mommy and her 4 year old son.

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

Sometimes the most traumatic events that happened when I was young and new and just starting my ICU career; when you least expect it, those repressed memories come glaring at you.

Thinking I had tucked this tragedy away forever, and then within a flash… 25 plus years later, I see that little 4 year old boy, holding his daddy’s hand.
Watching doctors and nurses work on his mommy.

This mother. This wife.
After countless Code Blues, her final moments were asynchronous breathing with the ventilator. We called it “guppy breathing.”

We watched through the patient’s window as the Intensivist explained to the patient’s husband: “I’m sorry. We’ve done everything. Her organs have shut down. There’s nothing more we can do.”

Her husband came into her ICU room. And gave a final kiss to his wife.
Little Benny at 4 years old, knew his mommy was sick. His cheeks turned red. He cried out: “Mommy, mommy.”
As he watched his mommy slip away.
Forever.

My first assignment in this 24 bed ICU, was this 32 year old female who had pre-eclampsia. During her pregnancy her pre-eclampsia seemed well under control….until the emergency C-section.
After delivering her 6 lb 2 Oz baby girl, she was rushed to the ICU.

Eclampsia. Severe hypertension. 210/112. O2 sats dropping. Patient intubated stat. Central line and arterial line placed. Nipride drip started. Erratic seizure activity. Kidney failure. All systems down.

It was my first week in this very large ICU. I was still in orientation. There was nothing that could prepare me for this assignment.

This patient was internally hemorrhaging. BP out of control. Kidneys shut down. Liver failure.
We gave RBC’s and platelets, one after the other.
This was a 2:1 assignment.
Relentless.

The Intensivist stayed at her side. Screaming out whatever lifesaving measures we could provide. But short of a miracle, nothing was going to work.

I always wondered what happened to that little boy.

That image.

Of him holding his daddy’s hand as they both starred through the ICU window.
A mommy lost forever.

A little baby girl never ever knowing her real mommy. And a husband. Now left with his 4 year old son and newborn baby girl.

Repressed memories.
Sometimes come back to life.
Maybe when you’re strong enough to handle them emotionally.

But that image.
That little boy. With his cap on his head. Holding his daddy’s hand.
Forever lost in translation.


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