This happened nearly a dozen years ago,
yet still feels like just yesterday.
Standing at the foot of his bed,
i watched helplessly as he took some of his final breaths.
he was surrounded by the code team,
some peoples’ jobs merely the space they were holding.
a 1st year student, i stood there in my pressed and clean labcoat.
my nursing shoes; unsure what to do.
frozen in my tracks, my voice cracked
when telling the lead physician of his sudden collapse.
the pain in his calves he complained of just moments before
we exited the hospital’s front door.
the CI and I had dismissed the pain as leg cramps
from the progress in his walking distance.
so soon after having been bedridden following his craniotomy,
and partial lobotomy, we didn’t realize the risks and his fate.
the hiss of the oxygen, turned to its highest,
one of the few sounds in the room otherwise quiet.
less than five minutes before,
he, my CI and i had been walking outdoors.
my job for most of the walk had been to guard him,
to keep him steady, to keep him from falling.
i supported him, one hand on his belt,
the other holding his right hand in mine; a steady incline.
within steps of the change in guard,
he experienced a sudden decline.
my CI lowered him to the ground,
if it had been me at guard, both of us fallen, piling.
quickly, i pulled out my ammonia salts,
a sign of my green horns; an intern.
after breaking the tab and insuring his stability,
i ran inside, to procure a set of wheels.
on the way back to his room, his breathing
heavily labored. his skin grey turning.
it almost seemed as if he had had a severe
asthma attack, turning grey from the lack of perfusion.
we rushed him back to his room,
his wife at his side as others activated the code blue.
i watched what was to be their last goodbye,
in my freshly polished shoes and pressed lab coat,
i wanted to cry. false tears were running
down my face, still dry.
oh the things i learned that fateful day,
never ignore the signs of a DVT!
later i learned his astrocytomas & glioblastoma multiform
put him at risk for the emboli that traveled to his airways.
later the lead code physician ordered any non-essential personnel to leave,
head hanging low, i was the only one to go.
others stood there just holding the space,
unsure of their role, yet i couldn’t look anyone in the face.
in shock i sat quietly, then lead back to the clinic office
by someone who had noticed my shift in countenance.
as i passed by the room, where his wife has been shuttled,
my shoulders dropped lower as if in a singular huddle.
checking his chart, following up the the nurses,
we learned that day of his fate: death by asphyxiation
i drove that night, by the river of James,
not caring about the traffic, the slick roads, the rain.
my heart was filled with grief: the father, husband now lost,
my being stuck in traffic, repeatedly, seemed a simple cost.
i cried that night for his death,
it seems I had almost felt the presence of Archangel Azrael.
the next day I was almost relieved to hear,
his wife left grieving was also somewhat relieved.
three young children to care for at home, she didn’t want
them to remember his unsupported death within their abode.
for his affliction & neurosurgery had left him somewhat a child,
within the body of a man, safety awareness withheld.
in his death he had gifted to her the relief her burden of him,
freeing her to focus on the care of their young children.
I believe because of this experience, I was able to help to more quickly identify the signs of DVT in at least 5 others. While others were false alarms, I do not fuck around with the signs: better safe than sorry.
Here are some of the risk factors for DVT (each on its own can cause a blood clot to form):
- Recent surgery (if if NOT bedridden)
- Active cancer
- Recent injury (especially fractures)
- Family History
- Use of hormones: Birth control, Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Decreased activity: traveling
- Heart conditions: Failure, Murmurs