The Obituary of an angry ICU physician

Pictures of happiness we never knew

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I wish I could have known him.

That other side of him.

I look at his obituary pictures. 

Family, friends and colleagues sharing pictures of you smiling and laughing. Hugging each other. Smiling ear to ear. They were sincere smiles. Sincere happiness.

I wish I could have known him.

He was brilliant. One of our main ICU physicians. He could meticulously turn a critically ill patient around. With this Intensivist, there was hope for the patients.


The side of him we knew.

Angry. Short tempered. Screaming at us. We were experienced nurses. We knew how to be great ICU nurses.

But we feared him.

His was a bulldozer who showed us no respect. He degraded us.

There was nothing we could do to gain his respect.

We were a failure in his eyes.

And every time he came into our ICU, we wanted to hide. 

Because the screaming would begin.

Relentless verbal abuse.

Management wasn’t there for us.

It was: “deal with it”

He finally left us and went into his own private practice.

We finally gained some type of peace while we re-collected our self esteem. 

We were there for the patients.

We were there to put these tattered multi-system organ failure patients back together again.

A new team of Intensivists came to us slowly. One by one. We were restored, as we began to create a new ICU unit filled with respect. With camaraderie. With sharing each other’s information and respecting our collective expertise.

I’m sad that as brilliant as he was he couldn’t find joy or happiness with us nurses.

Somewhere he had a demon that walked through our doors terrorizing us.

I’m glad you had some happiness elsewhere. Your pictures show us that other side that we never knew.

We wanted to respect you.

But you had too much anger in you.

Whatever you were facing, we may never know.

Rest peacefully.

I wish we could have known him.


By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

PhD. Big man on the psych unit. Eighth floor. He puffed on his pipe as he sat behind that powerful mahogany desk separating him against them…as he listened to dialogue. One after the other.
The broken. The misfits. The psychotics and schizophrenics. Bipolar.
Beaten at birth, physically and emotionally.
He was the God in the land of serpents.
He’d select one by one. ECT. Electroconvulsive therapy.
Electrodes to their heads, mouthpiece in place. All clear. Surge of electricity to their brain as they went into a grand mal seizure.
They filed out. One by one. Zombie. Not remembering the present but knowing the past.
Eyes bulging. In a daze. And they’d stumble back into their room.
The psychiatric unit. 1970’s.
Murderers. rapists.pedophiles.domestic violence.Homeless. nameless
We got them all.

And after 2 years as I transitioned from LPN to RN I saw no cure.
Filing in and out, open door, revolving without a cure.

One pill makes you happy. One pill makes you small and the one the doctor gives you doesn’t do anything at all.

I ventured away and toward ICU nursing for 34 years and near retirement I thought I’d try psych again.

Nothing changed. FBI. Watching you. Poison in my juice. He’s watching me. I’m pregnant with Jesus. I am the Virgin Mary.
They had titles. A rapist a murderer a kidnapper. Violence.

I was assaulted twice. Randomly and unprovoked. Two CAT scans later and realized there was no cure. No pill that would alter them into the right direction. No algorithm.

ECT changed. Anesthesia now. With an anesthetist. Valium IVP. And a petite mal seizure.
Filed back to their unit by wheelchair after a recovery room period.
And they still didn’t remember the present but knew the past.

I left this time for good. Feeling no hope. For this population that may have had a chance at birth but were born defeated.

Behind his mahogany desk as he puffed on his pipe. He had all of the answers as he manipulated his existence on his throne.
Female nurses bowed down to him in adoration. Male techs walked by without eye contact.
He was feared. He was the god of the psychiatric unit.

With all of the answers.
But no answers at all.


(Google stock photo)

She was just 17

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I was afraid to go to football games and basketball games.
I was afraid that they would look at me.

I was conditioned to believe I was short fat ugly and stupid. I’d sit in my bedroom, record playing, lights out…. Alone. On one of the biggest football nights. Over and over again.

I was short but I wasn’t fat or stupid or ugly. I had long red hair that curled naturally. I was a mixture of Irish and Italian but obviously carrying the recessive gene.

“You look like a monkey” as my mother looked at our Easter pictures …. Picture after picture of my mother’s distaste for me.
Deborah would you like more potatoes? Laughter, taunting, ridicule …daddy running into the walls after his case of beer. Losing his IBM director job, losing his accounting firm job, losing our lake house. My only solitude.

Watching my friends go off to college… and I was told I had to stay at home and go to a community college and become a nurse.

I never wanted to be a nurse.

In my dreams I was this journalist for the New York Times, with my one bedroom condo in Manhattan….
Instead I did what I was told and stumbled through Nursing school.

When I graduated, the ER at a small hospital in a small town urged me to come on board. And I eventually was promoted to manager.
Big fish in a small tank.
I wrote policies and procedures and bought defibrillators, held hands with Joint Commission and did staffing and taught BLS (CPR) and eventually had our staff get their ACLS certification… which was a big deal back then!

GSW’s, domestic abuse, cardiac arrests, respiratory arrest, delivering babies and catching the placentas and too many children with parents who were their abusers.
Child abuse wrecked me and I had to leave.

Adult ICU caught my eye and I joined the team. ICU was addicting. Ventilators and dialysis and central lines and PA Lines (Pulmonary Artery/Swan Ganz) and arterial lines and CRRT and CPR, multi system organ failure and a team of doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists that became my new family.

And along the way I met the one. I thought.
My magic man, my last hippie on earth who dazzled me and charmed me.
And though i was deemed as short fat ugly and stupid by my parents, this man lifted me up. I was on fire. Until I wasn’t.

He was not a good man. To me. A narcissist who never had enough. Women. I was so naive I didn’t know.
Not a good man but we created good children. So I kept on and on pretending it was a good marriage until his death.
And I was finally free.

I haven’t been on a date since. I’m too afraid of making that same mistake. So I don’t.

Retired from nursing, I sometimes miss it but not enough to clock back in again.

I may never know why parents create such beautiful children and turn them into frightened animals.
I guess there was not a lot of therapy back then. Obviously not enough self awareness.

You can be whatever you want
Especially when you lift that veil of
discouragement. Of negativity.

I am not sure of why I am here… maybe this is what I was supposed to do all along… was write about what everyone was trying to hide.

Write about the insecurities, the hate, the anger, the addictions, the abuse. Write about triumphs and tragedies of ICU nursing. Of peaceful dying and deaths and brutal dying of CPR and cracked ribs and ventilators and last hope treatments to patients who are futile but families insist on “everything.”

I finally opened up the curtains in that large dark house that kept all of the secrets.
But in the end, everyone knew the truth
We just didn’t speak it back then.

I’m here now loud and clear to open the curtains of lies and deceit and betrayal. The curtains are opened along with the windows.

Let the light in.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be.