Saturday, May 23, 2009

Awful Denial

The nightmares have started again. I suppose I should have seen it coming but then again, maybe not. Six 12 hour shifts of caring for the same mortally wounded soldier and his family have clearly taken its toll. Two weeks ago he rolled through our doors with a gun shot wound to the head. The head shot so bad he was leaking brain tissue from the entrance and exit wounds. I know, I saw.

No one survives that kind of wound. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is his brainstem is still fully intact. The tiny part of the brain high up on the neck that controls the body's most primitive functions, breathing and heart beat, were not damaged and so he lives. He lives in a coma, never to wake up, limbs slowly contracting and posturing. His family won't let him go.

No matter how many times the physicians, social workers and nursing staff talk with them they hold on. Each time I speak with them my words become a little more brutal in what I say, "you do understand he had his brains in pieces coming out of his head? His brain is no longer whole, it is in shreds?" and each time they assure me the do understand.

Lat week before I left the hospital for a week's vacation I tried one more time hoping something I say may click and they will understand nothing can be done. It did not, they are too firmly entrenched in denial.

Me, on the other hand, am wrecked. I find the Soldiers and Marines we've withdrawn care on and according to their wishes allowed to die now plague my sleep. I wake up heart pounding after conversations in my dreams with ones who never talked. I've cared for these patients and their families to the best of my ability only now my slumbering mind tells me a different story.

It's Memorial Day Weekend and I don't want to remember.

1 comment:

Don said...

My Amish neighbors faced a similar situation recently. The father was out cutting firewood and apparently encountered a classic "widow maker" situation -- the tree he felled was holding up something else that landed on his head. Straw hats don't do much to cushion impacts. Somehow he walked home. He was helicoptered to a hospital where they removed 27 skull fragments from his brain. Shortly afterward he had a stroke. Being Amish, the family was willing to leave him in God's hands which is where he is now, I guess.