20090930

Travel Nurse Aim: Has Anyone Claimed the Body Yet?

It's strange how an old memory will just pop into my head without anything triggering it (or at least nothing I can recall). Just out of the blue. Pop, there's an old memory. It's even more strange when it's a memory of something that happened years ago that didn't seem very significant even at the time it happened. I’m one of those people who has difficulty brushing this type of memory aside without some sort of analysis as to why it came into my head in the first place. So here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, the Memory
Tonight I was sitting here minding my own business when a crotchety old patient I attended several years ago popped into my mind. I was working as a travel nurse at a rehabilitation clinic at the time. The patient had apparently spent most of his life alienating all of his family members and would-be friends. It took him mere hours before most of the nurses in the rehab hated his guts. Every word that came out of his mouth was rude, hateful or derogatory. Even still, it was surprising that not a single person visited him the entire two months he was in the rehab hospital even though it was common knowledge that he had a large family living nearby.

One day while taking report I was told that the patient had died several days earlier. His body was bagged and placed in the temporary holding morgue where it remained unclaimed. His family was notified of his death, but none of them would agree to dispose of the body. I caught myself asking at the beginning of every shift “Has anyone claimed the body yet?” I wondered what kind of a family could be that cold and heartless. Surely that decrepit old man couldn’t have been so bad that no one cared what happened to his remains.

Finally after almost two weeks, the hospital was able to get an acquaintance to claim it. The situation made me wonder just how bad this guy had to have acted during his life to make what seemed to be the entire world turn against him.

Now the Analysis
This is the best I can come up with as to why this memory popped into my head. It might be a reminder that as a nurse I only get a snapshot of what a patient is truly like. Most of my patients are not used to spending time in a hospital. Some get scared when they are normally brave. Some get shy when they are normally outgoing. Some get angry when they are normally calm. A reminder not to judge people by how they act in the hospital (even though the crotchety old man in the hospital was apparently a crotchety old man most of his life).

Or…it could just mean that if I treat my family like crap, my body will be stuffed in a black bag, stuck in a refrigerator and left unclaimed when I die. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best.