The Times You Ask, “Why, Why, Why?!”

From the time you become a student nurse to the day you finish your nursing career, there are so many times that make you call to the heavens and ask, “Why?”

Such was the case for me one morning in mid-January in the late-’80s, as I worked my day shift in the Recovery Room, a little soft music playing, my patient still sleeping. Then the PA system blasted, “Code Blue, outpatients! Code Blue, outpatients!” And I knew we had trouble, big trouble. Our only anesthetist was in the OR; the roads were icy, so it was unlikely we could ship the patient out; and on and on my mind went through the possible scenarios.

The Resuscitation Room in OPD was like a war zone. The floor was covered with debris of every kind, and two or three doctors were working on a little blond-haired girl, four years old. The nurses were all occupied, and I was quickly dispatched to another department for a piece of equipment. I ran faster than I ever had in my life. When I got back, I was pleased to see our anesthetist was out of the OR and doing his best to place a breathing tube in the tiny angel-like mouth of the little girl. I asked above the heads of others, by eye contact only, of my friend Carol, “What in the world has happened?”

Carol came over and whispered that the mother had been holding the child, Megan, inside the seat belt. The car hit an icy patch, the father couldn’t control it, and it went over an embankment. The parents had minor lacerations but Megan, trapped inside the seat belt, had had her larynx crushed by the tightening seat belt. She was unable to breathe. It did not look good. But finally a tube was in place, and the children’s hospital contacted.

Four people, angels to us that day, arrived to take over. Two doctors and two nurses, with their pediatric expertise prepared to leave with our little blond Megan. There were tears all around; the parents distraught beyond imagination and full of self-blame, the doctors and nurses sweating and despairing that all was not well for our tiny charge.

And the day continued on. The shift ended, reports were given, and there was no word from the children’s hospital about our patient. We went home hoping and praying for the best. At home you’re supposed to put that aside and deal with your own life, but at times it is almost too much to ask. That night I awoke from a nightmare that was to be a recurring theme for months to come. I would see the pink sweater and blond hair of Megan floating above my face.

The next morning, the children’s hospital called to say we had done all the right things, but the trauma was too great to her chest, and they had to let her go.

And we all asked, “Why? Why?!” We talked to each other, preached about children and seat belts, cried, and suffered our bad dreams. Most of us in that room that day had a child of Megan’s age.

It took a long time for me to ease up on the seat belt speech every time my little girl went somewhere with another adult and to stop seeing Megan in every little blond at the playground.

And over the years there were other Megans and other tragedies, and, again, we all asked, “Why?”

And that is life on the frontline, and, yes, nurses, it is OK to cry!

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