I have been an RN for close to twenty years now, with eighteen of those years spent in the Emergency Room. It can be a stressful job with a high burnout rate. For the past eight years I have repeatedly proclaimed that given year to be my last, but then will come along a particular patient that changes all that. I call these the divine appointments. These are the ones that don’t go down in the schedule books of course, and yet I have somehow been trusted by the Lord to play a small part in touching another life for the better. Each scenario is different, but in each, the fingerprint of God can be traced at every turn. I liken these patient scenarios to a crime scene investigation where all clues lead to the Lord God. He is guilty as charged of unleashing another miracle. This latest is one of the greatest……
It was a few weeks ago when a call came in over our ambulance radio that a 39 year old woman was being brought in for chest pain. She had just delivered a baby two weeks prior and had no medical history. I actually took the call and presumed she might just be having an episode of something called syncope. The call was not alarming, but I assigned her to one of my rooms in the critical area of the ER that day. When she arrived I was surprised at her grim appearance as she was pale and gray in color, and was profusely sweating. These are very bad signs. The paramedic too shared more of his concerns and I quickly summoned one of our MD”s to her room. Her family had arrived so her father was sitting in a chair in a corner of the room while her sister stood at the bedside to my left. Her breathing was becoming increasingly labored and she had the ‘circling the drain’ appearance that we RN’s know so well. As I was struggling to secure the ECG leads to her wet and clammy skin, she quickly and suddenly went unresponsive on us. The doctor and I were on either side at the head of her bed when this happened. It was a very bad moment. It is shocking and unexpected for such a young woman with no medical history to go into cardiac arrest, but it indeed happened mere moments after she arrived to our ER. Her family were horrified as we both yelled out ..:CODE!!!’. ER personnel jump into ultra high gear when that one word is heard bellowing from anywhere in ear shot. I can still picture her sister in horrified shock as we jumped on her beautiful sister’s chest to perform life saving compressions. We scurried them out of the room fast as an army of fellow ER staff came barreling in to help. Within seconds we had the defibrillation pads on her chest and performed a cardiac shock. She indeed was in a fatal cardiac arrhythmia known as ventricular tachycardia. With a second shock, her pulse returned. She even became responsive again and opened here eyes for a time. There was a colossal sense of relief in the room, but a great foreboding as well as we knew something was very wrong for this to have happened. As we were discussing the next appropriate actions to take, her heart stopped beating again. It was agonizing to watch, and I could not stop picturing the fact that she had a tiny baby at home…a family that loved and needed her. It was such a helpless feeling to see her with no apparent signs of life at all. Her cardiac rhythm was deteriorating to something called ventricular fibrillation, and was getting flatter and flatter so as to get to asystole, which is flat line= death. The cardiac shocks continued with up to nine shocks given. Chest compressions as well were ongoing. We pushed every emergency IV drug at our disposal. We were doing all that we as trained individuals knew to do, but what we had before us was a dying woman. This precious woman was a wife, mother, sister, daughter, coworker, friend…so many things to so many people. We were at the end of of our wisdom and ability. What she needed was a miracle, which cannot be found on any code cart in the world.
We had paged one of the cardiologists in the hospital and he agreed that her only chance was to get her to the heart catheterization lab to try and open up a possible closed artery leading to her heart . This very cath lab was not even in existence at our hospital just under a year ago. She had actually gained a heart rhythm and pulse back after the many interventions, but her condition was extremely critical and precarious. As staff ran her to the cath lab, she again lost her pulse and was shocked again out of a fatal arrhythmia. Everyone knew that we could only do this for so long and that at some point her heart would no longer respond. As we left her in the care of the cath lab personnel, our hearts felt so heavy and burdened for her and her family. One of the RN’s with me that day was Charlotte. Charlotte is a lover of the Lord, and without hesitation she grabbed my hands outside of this patient’s room and we PRAYED. Yes, I believe that was the best nursing intervention of the day. We prayed a humble and bold prayer that she would indeed live, and that God would be exalted in the miracle of it all. Now I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of nurse I want taking care of me. Thank you Charlotte!!!
In the cath lab it was found that her main coronary artery was not only blocked off, but that it was dissecting or coming apart in areas. It would be impossible to place a stent. She needed emergent open heart surgery which could not be performed in our hospital. The cardiologist was able to place an intra-aortic balloon pump which is an amazing device that utilizes a balloon placed in the aorta…it inflates and deflates to supply blood to the heart. Pretty incredible stuff, but again, a very temporary fix to a dying heart that needs more permanent help. And so she was rushed to our main hospital where open heart surgery was immediately performed. At every stage in this process, staff were baffled that she was still alive. Her chart contained the data of a deceased patient. Her cardiac heart rhythm pictures were those of someone who should not be breathing or talking. And yet breathing and talking she would again do!…and so much more.
I went to see Leigh the next day…may I never pass up the chance to talk to a miracle of the Lord. It was the very day after her horrendous ordeal. Her surgery was done, and she was sitting up eating and visiting with others… within a day of cardiac arrest and major heart surgery! It was beyond remarkable. Leigh recognized a divine nature to her life being spared. Not only was she spared from an early death, but her mind was left totally intact. She could have suffered incredibly from brain injury or stroke as well. She has a humble and grateful heart for all that happened. She told me that she looks forward to graduations, marriages, etc…the things that are taken for granted by so many. She has been released to home and is recovering and doing quite well. She is blessed to have a wonderful support system helping her through her continued healing. Hard to imagine caring for a newborn and toddler while recovering from having your chest compressed, shocked, and opened up. But what a testimony she has to share. I am honored that she has allowed me to share it with you all.
May we all cherish the very breath of life we enjoyed this day, and may we remember to praise the Lord for each new day we are given.
And yes, thanks to Leigh, I will stay in the ER yet another year. I surely can’t miss the next appointment!
Here was a sure promise for Leigh…
PSALM 118:17…..I WILL NOT DIE, INSTEAD I WILL LIVE, TO TELL WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE…
May God receive the glory.
The first pic is of Leigh the very next day during my visit with her. Isn’t she gorgeous!!?? And just over a week later she herself came back to our ER to personally thank us for our care. The pic is of Charlotte, Dr. Small, Leigh, and me. Nothing but smiles. Hallelujah to a magnificent God. Here is her adoring family.