The nurses and therapists of Residential Home Health are healthcare experts — their first priority is delivering superior medical care. But their care is emotional and interpersonal as well, generously providing support and empathy in times of fear or frustration. This story is a powerful example of balancing level-headed expertise with overwhelming compassion that hit very close to home. Thanks to RN Case Manager Rosealee for sharing her memorable tale of weathering an emergency with her patient and his family.
Hearing the words ‘I have chest pain’ hits much closer to home for me than it may for most. In January 2013, my mom had a complete occlusion of her left main artery in her heart. Countless times we were told she shouldn’t have made it to the hospital, and countless times we were told this was the end. We had faith and saw something greater than the medical professionals could see. With many wonderful nurses’ and doctors’ care and professional clinical judgment, her life was saved, and she is still her with us three years later. Ever since my personal experience, I am extremely sensitive to situations when I have a patient say, ‘I have chest pain.’
It was the end of my day, and a busy day at that. I was about to head to my seventh patient’s house for the day and was ready to go home and enjoy my family time. I received a phone call from my patient’s wife before my arrival, with concerns of the patient having a fever. I did not hesitate to tell her, ‘I am on my way and I will check everything out.’
This patient was already in frail health; upon my arrival, I could tell his condition was worsening. In completing a full assessment, I discovered the patient was complaining of chest pain, among many other things. Naturally one would complete a more focused assessment and instruct on calling 911. But my patient was refusing to go to the hospital, and I could tell his wife was very concerned. I made a call to his primary care physician, who also recommended for the patient to be sent to the emergency room. Further conversations occurred: discussing the potential situations that could result from his conditions not being addressed promptly; encouraging that if we get this addressed now, we can save him from a potentially avoidable event and prolonged hospital admission. The patient was agreeable at that point and I proceeded to call 911.
This was not one of my strengths, but I pulled through it. Many memories of my personal experience began flooding my mind. I had to take several deep breaths while describing the situation to 911, to avoid me breaking down from my own memories. I knew I needed to be strong for the patient and for his wife. As we waited for EMS to arrive, the patient’s wife was overflowing with questions; I assured her this was the best decision and not to make assumptions until we have answers. She was very shook up, and tears were developing in her eyes. I gave her a big hug and said, ‘It will be OK.’
Once EMS arrived and took the patient outside on the stretcher, I stressed to his wife, ‘Please drive safe, he is in good hands.’ She thanked me, and then thanked me again with the biggest hug I have ever received from a patient’s family. I knew she was grateful I was there. As she was rushing to her vehicle, she said to me, ‘I love you.’ It caught me off guard hearing those words from a patient’s family, but I didn’t hesitate to say it right back because I truly do love my patients, I love what I do, and I was glad I was the one there to help.
Once I was in my truck, I broke down as I was flooded with so many memories from the past and from the love and appreciation I experienced from the patient’s wife. I may not feel like I am making a difference in each patient’s life daily, but this is a day I could reflect on and know I made a difference and prevented something bad from happening. This is a day I will remember for the rest of my career and will appreciate the love I was given in return.