Travel Nurse: ALWAYS Wear a Seatbelt

I saw the saddest situation at work last night. As I was taking report at the beginning of my shift I overheard one of the day shift nurses talking about a 40 year old male patient who had just had major reconstructive surgery done on his head and face. She said the doctors at Shands (a world renowned hospital in Gainesville, Florida) had done an incredible job based on the "Before" pictures she had seen. She also said she didn't know why they had bothered doing the surgery since the patient was almost certainly going to be in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of his life.

Although he wasn't going to be my patient, I had to ask what happened. She said he had been driving west on I-10 near one of the Tallahassee exits when a car pulled into his lane causing him to swerve out of control. He wasn't able to regain control of his car and it began to roll. At some point during the roll he was thrown out of the car, landed face first on the pavement and skidded to a stop about 70 feet from where he had first landed. She said the pictures of him taken prior to his surgery showed an almost bare skull where his face had been and his jaw and right cheek bone had been fractured. I don't say this as an "I told you so" by any means, but he had not been wearing a seatbelt.

Partially out of curiosity, but mostly because I had some spare time and thought I'd help some of the busier nurses with their patients, I decided to look in on the 40 year old patient. The nurse was right. The reconstruction was incredible. She was also right in that he will probably never come out of his vegetative state.

I was told that he has a wife and four teenage kids. When I heard that all I could think of is that I personally would rather have died in the accident than to live like that for the rest of my life. I would hate to put my husband and kids through that.

Let me just say here that I know many of my posts may seem cold and without feeling when it comes to my recounting the facts of what I have seen at work. But I have seen nurses who get too emotionally involved with their patients. They don't usually last very long in this field. I, on the other hand, have chosen to divorce myself (as best I can) from the natural emotions of seeing someone suffer physical and mental anguish of body and soul. For the most part I think I am successful at it. Sometimes it gets to me though. This situation sure got me thinking about how much I need to look back over my Living Will to make sure it says what I want it to say.