Monday, September 7, 2009

It Haunts Me


Labor Day, for the past thirty years, has brought one young man to my mind. A deep sorrow comes over me as I think of him. But, I know that what I am experiencing is not nearly the pain that his family feels, year after year, as they yearn for their son.

The memories start to come as a blur of scenes…the ambulance pulling up and the young man being wheeled in to the Emergency Room, CPR being performed, the blood…

As a young teenage volunteer, because of my eagerness to help in any way and my positive attitude, I was given the privilege of being allowed to assist the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. The staff often had me help with bringing patients from the waiting area, cleaning equipment, running for supplies, and other basic tasks. The ER became my second home. It was my refuge from the dangers that I was encountering in my young teen life. In one year I spent 3000 hours in that small emergency department. The nurses and doctors became my second family.

Despite my age, I was not shielded for the harsh realities of life. Trauma, suffering, pain and death were part of my daily life’s experience. In many ways I was immature, but deep inside the experiences made me older than my years.

Today, decades later, my mind again drifts to that fateful Labor Day. My imagination forms what the young man’s day might have been like. He was probably disappointed to have to work on a day when so many were enjoying a barbeque or the beach. Or maybe he was thrilled to get a chance to make holiday wages. I picture the warehouse bustling, heavy equipment moving large objects from place to place. Then, with dread, I imagine the scene that was described to me. A scene where a huge container fell from it’s shelving high above. I can see it tumbling down, and then striking the young man on the head, dealing a crushing blow.

The ambulance attendants and paramedics were performing chest compressions and artificial respirations as they rushed his gurney into the emergency room.

“He was in full arrest when we got to the warehouse, doc,” the paramedic said breathlessly, “We’ve got nothing”

The cardiac monitor showed a flat line when the emergency medical tech stopped performing chest compressions. The paramedics had gotten a line in place in the field and IV fluids were rushing into his body. From the foot of the bed, I could not see any trauma at all to his lean, healthy frame. As I moved to the top of the bed, I had to withhold a gasp. His head, from just above the eyebrows was deformed and bleeding heavily.

The resuscitation efforts continued. The doctor rapidly making assessments and giving orders to the nurses and respiratory therapists.

“Do you see the halo sign?” I heard the doctor say to the nurse.

When I asked the nurse what he meant, she brought me closer to the bed and showed me that each drop of blood had a clear ring of liquid around it. The clear liquid was cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid from within the skull that surrounds the brain.

It did not take long to determine that there was no way to bring life back to this young man. He ultimately had died upon the impact. But, a valiant effort was made to resuscitate him. No one could let him go without at least trying to save him.

As difficult as it was to see him there lifeless, the most heart wrenching part of the day came next. His mother and his siblings were brought in to see him and say goodbye. The wailing was so very loud, so very understandable. Soul-piercing. I can hear the mother’s cry very clearly in my mind, three decades later.

So today, and what I suspect will be for all my Labor Day’s here on earth, I remember him. Today, I say a prayer for his family.






23 comments:

Foursons said...

Oh my. I got chills reading that. The wails of the mother. Breaks my heart. Bless you for doing a job that not many would volunteer for much less go to school to do it for a living. I am sorry you relive this moment every year.

blueviolet said...

I am so emotional lately because these kinds of posts are just really hitting me hard. That's just so awful and I can honestly picture his family receiving the news and hear them even. It's awful.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Such a profound post, Julie. I think all of us nurses have some defining moment in our careers that cements the fragility of life and tells us why we chose the career path we did. And sometimes makes us question why we ever chose it. In the end, we know it was the right decision. Because the right ones are not necessarily the easy ones. I join you in prayer for this family today. Bless you for never forgetting this family.

Pam D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam D said...

Thank God for you, Julie, and all of the others who willingly deal with things that most of us just can't face. My dad was hit by a car and was, techincally, dead at the scene. But they did their best, all the way to the hospital and for a little while afterwards. I'm thankful for their efforts, but considering his injuries, I'm even more thankful that they weren't successful. Hard to say, but true. It's comforting to know, though, that a nurse who went to church with our family who was in her car at the scene, got out and stayed with him.
Anyway, I know that you must have provided much comfort over the years, to those who were injured, ill, or in labor. And, to the families who worried or grieved alongside them. I wonder what jewel goes into the crown for that comfort? I can imagine that your crown will be quite sparkly....

Melissa Stover said...

oh so sad. it breaks my heart. and i know you've seen many heartbreaking things. you write so well about your experiences.

Aspiemom said...

What a terrible memory!

The Blue Sparrow said...

How awful for his family to have so see him that way. Its so sad.

Rachel said...

What a heartbreaking story... and it speaks volumes about you that you take time 30 years later to remember him and pray for his family.

Kelley said...

You are such an amazing teller of these life experiences you have had! I know that family would be honored if they knew their son was still a strong memory to others (not including family). I can't imagine how incredibly difficult that was for you to experience. I will say a prayer for them and for you!

He & Me + 3 said...

That is horrible. Something a mother never wants to go through. You are such a precious nurse to pray for your patience and their families. Our pediatrician prays for her patience. It is so nice to know.

Jen said...

Bless you for still thinking about him. I am sure that your prayers bring his family comfort.

Semi-Slacker Mom said...

What a sad story, but wonderful that you still remember to pray for his family all these years later.

Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing this story...hopefully some Labor day you will have a different kind of event, a happy memory, to fade away such vivid thoughts. Have a great week Julie!

Beth E. said...

What a tragic story, Julie. I experienced hearing those wails last year, when a precious young man in our church family suddenly died. His mother and his wife, along with other family members had to say goodbye to him. I was in the private waiting room with them. It's a sound that cuts right to your very soul.

Praying for that young man's family this day.

Jen said...

What a sad story. That is very thoughtful of you to remember his family every year. I too have to work in the ER and it is never an easy thing to do.

Eyeglasses & Endzones said...

Days like this always start out with patriotic intentions and in our house it typically turns into talk about HOW many people are giving up of themselves for our country.

I am so sad that happened, and I am also amazed that you have such strength and an AMAZING perserverance.... you are an awesome nurse!

Happy Labor Day!

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

What a sad story.....

Morgan said...

I find it touching that you still think of his family after all these years and pray for them.

One of those stories that makes me want to hold my kids tightly and never let go.

Mighty M said...

Hard to believe you got to experience that scene at such a young age. I imagine it has encouraged you in your path in life and only helped you be even more compassionate than you already are.

christy rose said...

This brought tears flowing down my cheeks. I can not even imagine having to go through that at all. How sad!

Krista said...

Just like everyone else, I have tears in my eyes after reading this. I'm not surprised you still think of him and his family after all these years - these types of experiences are impossible to forget. I haven't yet seen any major traumas like this, but I know it will rock me straight to my core when I do. But I'm ready, and I can only hope that I can help in some small way.

Becca~TimeWellSpent said...

Oh Julie. My heart hurt for that young man and his family. It ached for you my dear.