You were devastated. Absolute shock. Your daughter was brought in this morning unresponsive. She was a DOA, but also only 18 so we gave her our best shot. We worked her over for a good 45 minutes. There was no coming back from a closed skull fracture like that. We wouldn’t tell you, but we fanned out her hair so that you wouldn’t see the extent of swelling that had occurred. No parent should have to see their baby like that.
And I had to stand next to my physician while he broke the news in as best a way possible. Correction, there is no “best” way. It is empty, sucking and pulling, crashing and shattering news. Your world has one less person in it now.
No, she probably didn’t suffer. The car crash, that left one in critical condition and two others with moderate injuries, happened so fast that she could have blinked twice and it was over.
You fall to the nasty hospital floor, not caring for the bacteria that may be there. Your world just shattered. You are shattered. And I stand there with a grim face, my hands clasped in front of me. You clutch each other. You scream. You cry.
I don’t change facial expression. I offer any help that I can. You decline and cling to each other harder. I stand awkwardly beside you. I pass you kleenex. A glass of water. I stand in solitude support. I’m here as a column of supportive understanding to try to ease your pain and suffering in the most diplomatic, politically correct way that the hospital allows. I nod my head, I shake my head. I offer a pat on the back. Eventually I have to leave you. More family has arrived and I know that you’re in good hands.
What you don’t know is that I, too, am shattered.
I cry the whole way home. I looked up your daughter on Facebook. She was beautiful. Just graduated high school. She had a whole life and world ahead of her. It isn’t fair.
I beat my steering wheel and rage when I get home and park. I throw my nursing bag across the kitchen. I drop to the floor, like you, and cry.
Though I’m too young for children even close to your daughter’s age, I have a younger brother who is 18. He does just what your daughter was doing: riding around the back roads with friends late at night. It could have just as easily been him wrapped around that light pole dead in the road.
I am more sorry than you will ever know. Honestly, you can’t know. But I do. And hopefully your daughter does, too. I never knew her, but I grieved her just the same.
We nurses may not show it at times, are unable to show it—whether it be to save face, hospital policy, or to just be courageous and supportive—but we do care. Your hurts are our hurts. We grieve with you. So please, just know that your grief is felt. It is shared.