Joy Oakey




Joy Oakey

It was still dark when Kathy Johnson pulled into the hospital parking lot before

her morning shift. She never liked January–a long, dreary month between the holidays and the warmth and hope of spring.
This was a particularly cold, damp morning-18 degrees and sleeting. Kathy’s mood wasn’t much cheerier. It was the last of a six-day stretch, and the day before had been stressful. One of her patients had a stroke and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. Another patient, confused, pulled out his intravenous lines three times, interrupting his antibiotic treatment.
“Good morning, Kathy,” one of her co-workers said, jolting Kathy out of her reverie. “Have a good one.”
“Yeh, I’ll try,” answered Kathy. “It’s got to be better than yesterday.”
She stopped in the small kitchen on her unit to grab a cup of coffee before going to listen to report from the night nurses.
“Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you’re on today,” said Sheila, a recently graduated nurse. “You’re great about helping me.”
“Sure, Sheila. We’ll help each other.”
Kathy remembered how frightening it was to be a new nurse with so much responsibility and so little experience. She made it a point to pass on the kindness shown to her 21 years ago by seasoned nurses.
As they listened to report, Kathy smiled while watching Sheila scribble down every fact about her patients. She decided Sheila would become an excellent nurse. She was conscientious and eager to learn.
Her attention swung back to the night nurse, however, when he said:
“Room 2542 is Mary Bacon, 82-years-old, with congestive heart failure. Mrs. Bacon’s condition is deteriorating. She does not want to be placed on a ventilator, so she is a level two. She does, however, want to be shocked, once, if her heart goes into fibrillation. Her daughter’s by her side.”
Kathy was fond of Mrs. Bacon and her daughter, Miriam. Not only did they express gratitude to nurses, which she appreciated. But more importantly to Kathy, they supported each other during the difficult end-of-life process.
Years of experience showed Kathy that acceptance of impending death was rare in families of hospitalized patients. At age 42, she had witnessed many deaths. She did not believe in God or an after-life. She did, however, believe in decreasing pain and suffering at the end of life on earth.
Sheila would care for the Bacon family today. She mentioned to Kathy that she didn’t think she could watch her own mother stop breathing and refuse a ventilator.
“That’s why it is good Mrs. Bacon expressed her wishes to her daughter,” Kathy replied. “This way it doesn’t fall on Miriam to make that decision on her own”
Kathy looked up and saw that a light was on over a patient’s door, signaling that he needed a nurse.
“Hi, Mr. Scarpato,” she said as she entered the room. “Ho can I help you?”
“Where the ‘f...’ is my pain med.,” he shouted. “I’ve been waiting over 15 minutes. Nobody cares around here.”
“Whoa, I’ll check right into it. I’m sorry you’ve waited I didn’t know you had asked for your pain medication.”
“Like I said, nobody cares.”
Kathy sighed and walked into the medication area. She didn’t take Mr. Scarpato’s outburst personally. Experience taught her to de-escalate the situation by remaining calm and attending to the underlying needs. Most patients responded positively.
“Here’s your pain med., Mr. Scarpato,” she said a few minutes later.
“Thank you, nurse. I’m sorry about the f-bomb.”
“We nurses have seen and heard just about everything, sir. I’ll check back in about half an hour and see if the medicine has helped you.”
As Kathy walked back into the hallway, she heard an alarm bell, followed by the announcement: “Code Blue. Room 2542.” She realized it was Mrs. Bacon’s room and jogged down the hall.
In Room 2542, Sheila prepared the defibrillator that would deliver a shock to the patient’s chest. A respiratory therapist forced air into the lungs by squeezing an oxygen bag attached to a mask that covered Mrs. Bacon’s nose and mouth. Doctors streamed into the room, forming a tight circle around the bed and forcing Kathy to stand behind Sheila.
“Are you okay with the defibrillator, Sheila?”
“Yes, but thanks for being here.”
Kathy looked around and realized Mrs. Bacon’s daughter Miriam wasn’t there.
“She’ll be upset she wasn’t here with her mom,” she thought to herself. “What a loving and attentive daughter she is. I hope the shock revives Mrs. Bacon long enough for Miriam to see her one more time.”
At that moment, Sheila placed the paddles on the patient’s chest. Her body jerked, once, as the shock was delivered.
While everyone else looked at the heart monitor, a doctor placed her hand on the patient’s neck, over the carotid artery.
Suddenly, she exclaimed, “We have a pulse!”
Someone else said, “Sinus tach rhythm.”
“We saved her, Kathy,” Sheila said.
“Good job, Sheila,” Kathy said out loud. But she thought to herself,” I just hope she stays alive long enough for her daughter to see her.”
As the code team began rolling Mrs. Bacon up to the Intensive Care Unit, Miriam ran up the hall.
“Oh, Mom,” she said, crying. “Mom, I’m so sorry I wasn’t here with you.”
Kathy walked over to Miriam and offered a hug.
“Kathy,” she said. “I know Mom’s time is near. But no matter how prepared we think we are, it’s still very hard.”
“I know, Miriam. You’re a wonderful daughter. I hoe you know that.”
Kathy finished up her day, tired, but glad Mrs. Bacon had lived long enough for one more connection with her daughter. When she arrived home, her husband told her someone from the hospital had called to say a patient named Mary Bacon was asking for her. Kathy called the Intensive Care Unit. A nurse there told her that patient had asked many times to talk to Kathy and that she probably would not live through the night. Kathy said she would drive back to the hospital.
When she arrived to the I.C.U., she walked solemnly into Mrs. Bacon’s room.
“Kathy, I saw you in my room, when my heart stopped. Thanks you for coming. But most of all I want to thanks you for saying all those nice things about Miriam. You made me realize I needed to come back one more time for her.”
Kathy froze. She had thought about Miriam, but she hadn’t talked out loud.
“You heard me, Mrs. Bacon?”
“Yes, dear, and now I’m at peace to move on to my next life. I’ll welcome you there, when it’s your time.”
For the first time in years, Kathy prayed, thanking God for Mrs. Bacon.



All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Joy Oakey.
Published on on 05/01/2008.


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