It was a long December. A few years ago, my husband of 37 years got his death sentence: recurrence of liver cancer with mets to his lungs and lymph nodes. He had a “Whipple” — a surgical procedure for pancreatic cancer — on Dec 24, 2015, and the surgeon discovered liver cancer too. So it was a 16-hour surgery. We were told he might die on the table. His eyes haunted me as ...

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Patsy loved playing bingo every Wednesday night. Her boyfriend of three years loved watching her daughter Jenna who was a tiny and pretty six-year-old her momma called "princess." Even though they weren't related, Jenna called Patsy's boyfriend "Uncle Billy" at her mother's behest. And Uncle Billy made Jenna shyer and quieter than she usually was. He'd walk in on those Wednesday nights and demand a big hug and kiss on the cheek ...

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Years ago in a 15-bed acute medical-surgical ICU, the nursing supervisor contacted me about a special assignment. Once I knew what it was, I said, “Absolutely.” We were about to admit a patient in his 40s with end-stage AIDS/HIV. He asked to be a DNR, but his MD wanted to admit him to the ICU for close monitoring. But the patient had a special request. Even with IV antibiotics and pain ...

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How do I tell you who I am in a couple of paragraphs? Well, I was born in 1955, so that makes me 61 years old. My namesake is probably movie star and America's sweetheart Debbie Reynolds. My maternal grandfather was straight from Italy; my paternal grandfather was straight from Ireland. Both crossed the Atlantic and landed on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. It was the promised land. So, that means I ...

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I'm in the ICU and was just back from an incredible tropical vacation. Nine days of vegging out on the beach. The glistening ocean was just steps away from the five-star hotel I was staying in, where doormen greeted me with fruity daiquiris and a staff that couldn't wait to serve my every whim. I was in paradise, and far, far away from the reality of my day-to-day existence as an ...

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Victim: Female nurse, age 25 Time: circa 1980 Place: A hospital in a sleepy Southern town with fifty beds, six emergency department beds, one nurse, one doctor and one secretary. It was an unusually quiet Friday night in this small emergency department. We all knew Friday was "party day": pay day, play day, alcohol, pills, drugs, loud music and lots of really bad decisions. Not only did we cover the entire city, but we also ...

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He had cardiomyopathy and CHF for over 20 years. At the time, doctors told him he could die at any time. That was 20 years ago. His EF was 10 percent — barely livable. Two decades later, this admit kept him on a see-saw with respiratory distress, a bad heart, bad lungs, atrial fibrillation with RVR and heart rate in the 140s all day long. He progressed from nasal cannula to ...

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There was her 28-year-old daughter lifeless in an ICU bed. Her name was Tricia, and she had dabbled with drugs since she was 15. As a child, she was artistic, adventurous, and always found excitement with other kids who tended to do risky things. She'd justify their behavior and say they were more fun and had better personalities. Eventually, her mom and dad moved to a small town thinking it would be ...

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The toddler was a curious, rambunctious, talkative three-year-old who loved to explore. Every week, he’d wait for Sunday to come, because Sunday was he and his dad’s special day. Mikey and his father adored each other. Whether Mikey and his dad were doing “horseback rides,” playing basketball, or just sitting on the rocking chair for story time, whenever they were together there was fun, love and a forever bond. Mom called them “the ...

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What can I tell you? It started out innocently. College exams were over. And that meant one thing — party time! Bubbly, shots, beer, cocaine and Percocet. Everyone was happy. It was a celebration. Pam came from a pretty strict religious family: no alcohol, no premarital sex and no crazy music in her house growing up. It was church every Wednesday and Sunday. And if you missed a Sunday, you were ...

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There was a lot about that place I didn't want to see or hear. The buzzing and whirring of ventilators; the loud call bells; near-dead patients; nurses running around with IV pumps and tubes dangling along behind them; the heart-stopping "Code Blue" warning; or the electrical sizzle of a patient getting shocked as someone screams, "All clear!" I didn't want to do it. Just a few days before, I had buried my mom. First ...

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Welcome to the land of happiness, sadness, confusion, self-doubt, defeat and heroism. You have only just begun. This is not an easy job. And countless times you will say, "What was I thinking?" Or "Why did I do this?" But it's not really a job. It is a lifelong sentence. It can be insanely gratifying, or you can throw in the towel. But be patient. It will consume you, and you will ...

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Once upon a time, I worked for a large hospital in the surgical-trauma ICU. It was just a six-month gig, and I had to travel from home further than I wanted. But my son would be starting college soon, and the $10,000 bonus was too irresistible. Diane was the manager. The most kind, skilled, and helpful person I have ever met as an ICU manager. She had every possible attribute as a ...

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We fought. And we fought hard. We were smarter and quicker and we could multi-task, and critically think beyond any MD or NP or PA or beyond any cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) nurse. We always thought we had the higher acuities. We had the critical patients. The multi-system failure patients. The hemodynamically unstable patients. We had to figure out the lungs, the heart, the kidneys, the brain, the pancreas, the gallbladder, the liver. And ...

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Jim Morrison of the Doors once sang, "Petition the Lord with prayer ... You cannot petition the Lord with prayer." But we did that. We petitioned. On one side of the ICU, we had an 18-year-old girl, upper middle-class family, had everything. Beauty, brains, money, supportive parents, and she was off into this new bright world, choosing her college of choice. A simple surgery led to sepsis, severe sepsis that raged through ...

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Mom. She was a feisty 100 percent Italian, straight from New Jersey. Her dad, straight from Italy, was a tailor and made the finest suits for New York and New Jersey businessmen. Mom learned this trade well. She could sew some of the most beautiful tailored suits for herself. She loved to cook and every night was a banquet, a feast which required up to 2 hours of clean-up time ...

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The surgeon is doing a tonsillectomy on a 4-year-old boy. Dr. Jones drops an instrument on the floor of the OR. The instrument is now contaminated and has to be sterilized by a special machine called an autoclave. This was a small hospital, so they did not have a large inventory of duplicate surgical instruments. So the circulating nurse put the instrument into the autoclave. As this machine locked in ...

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She fit into the palm of his hand. That long nine months. Waiting desperately for that baby they thought they could never have. Jeff, football player from his high school days, met the love of his life, Bridget, at the school party. She was smart and beautiful; Jeff was big and burley, but as kind and gentle as a kitten. They hung out through their college days.. And finally said their ...

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They said, "Do everything." She knew something was wrong. And by the time she was 85 she had forgotten the names of her children, the town she raised them in, even the name of her deceased husband. In her 70s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Still coherent, she talked to her physician about becoming a DNR: do not resuscitate. She did not want to live on a machine that would breathe ...

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Benjamin, Jr. was the apple of their eye. He was cute and inquisitive, and smart. Very, very smart. The minute he took his first breath into this world, his mom and dad had already ordained him as a future MD. He would become a doctor and follow in his father's steps. No questions asked. He would become the second MD in the family. Every birthday, his parties were doctor-themed: kiddie ...

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