Sunday, May 13, 2007

Can’t take it anymore, Good Bye

When I arrived at work the other day I received some interesting news. When I entered the room my supervisor had asked me if I knew a certain psych patient. The patient he was asking me about did not seem to belong on a psych ward. Granted the patient did mention that he was having suicidal thoughts, but had shown no signs of a mental illness. Well anyways the patient did his mandatory 72 hours and was discharged in the morning. My supervisor informed me that the patient set up his appointments for our day treatment program then went home and ate the gun.

The patient came on a Friday night and missed the doctor. So he sat around, talked with myself, the RN, and the other patients. When he checked in he said he had suicidal thoughts because his mother was sick and he had problems with his sister. What confused me with his death was that he made plans for the future (day treatment), he was changing jobs (he had money, just worked for fun), and had a huge support system (very large family and several friends).

When I went up to our psych ward, myself and two other RNs’ who worked with the patient discussed possible reasons. I think when he arrived home something triggered the suicidal thoughts i.e. dying mother, fighting with sister. The RNs’ think he did it because he received no real treatment. Because he came in on a Friday and the doctor doesn’t come in until Monday, he pretty much sat around watching television and sitting in group. The patient pretty much went through our psych assembly system.
The patient was a good man and everyone spoke very highly of him. I am not talking about a guy who was a jerk and in death he became nostalgic. He was genuinely a good person who was very social and a positive thinker. I believe sometime on the weekend he made peace with suicide and that was why he was so nice to everyone. It’s too bad the patient did not get the chance to receive the treatment he needed.

I did not have time to feel bad though, I received a call to get to our ER registration. A fight was about to break out over ugly shoes. Stupid people keep me busy enough so I do not have to deal with death in the hospital. I guess when I get old and retire I feel for these people then. For now though I have become comfortably numb.
Flashlight 1


Dean Moyer said...

It's hard to say why people do what they do, whether it's commit suicide or start a fight over ugly shoes.

It's surprising the number of people who write to me via my blog/website who are entertaining thoughts of suicide. The common theme invariably is that life isn't worth living with chronic pain. I guess they relate to me as a former patient who knows how depressing it can be to face life with a (supposedly) permanent disability. Either that, or they just don't know who else to turn to.

As a layman... and a non-healthcare professional... I was not prepared for this turn of events and I still have not figured out the best response to this situation. I think all you can do is try to show people that there is hope and that they still have options.

Every workplace begins to feel like an assembly line after a bit. Hospitals are just like offices, barbershops, hardware stores... all you can do is just deal with the customer/patient/problem at hand until it's time to move on to the next one.

Nurse Ratched has a post this week that pertains to this same feeling of helplessness. There are just so many people who need help and it can be emotionally draining if you don't put them out of your mind once you've moved on to the next situation.

The feeling you describe as "comfortably numb" is probably an appropriate response. You can't carry the entire world on your shoulders. Everyone is responsible ONLY for holding up their little piece of it. You're not responsible for what someone else decides to do.

All any of us can do is keep trying to help people... one person at a time.

I'm in a very fortunate position in that I get a lot of positive feedback that counterbalances the few sad letters I receive. I would probably become very depressed if it were not for the number of people who write and tell me that my site showed them there was still hope and actually gave them back their life.

It is unfortunate that hospital support staff seldom, if ever, receive any recognition for the good work that they do. (Gotta love that Janitor guy on "Scrubs.") This blog that you've started is one way to finally give your fellow staffers a little overdue recognition.

By the way, how did the ugly shoe fight turn out?


Forgotten Blue Line said...

The ugly shoes worked out fine. The guy who had the ugly shoes was upset someone didn't like them. He wanted to look like a punk and started the argument. The two were thrown off the property and was the easiest problem of the day.

Dean said...

That's funny... guys fighting about shoes. I was sure there was going to be a woman involved somehow. They tend to be more sensitive about footwear than we men are. :o)


Judy said...

It's easy to blame this death on the system - and maybe the doc could have made a difference if the man had come in on a weekday. I'm betting not.

Yes, the man made all the right moves to get released. It's possible he even meant them, but it's also possible that he had his suicide plan more firmly entrenched than his apparent plans for the future.

His method was particularly lethal and he knew how to use it.

His mom's illness may have been a pressure. Disagreements with his sister may have been a pressure. He had a life-threatening illness (major depressive episode). He was good at covering the symptoms, so he got himself released from the hospital.

You do what you can, but you can't save everyone. It's good to recognize that so his illness doesn't impact you - and so you have the resources to deal with the next one.

Tony Regan said...

Hi all,

How I can relate to this blog post, I am a survivor and my heart aches for those in that dark place and considering suicide. My goal is to reach anyone thinking that killing thereselves is the only solution. If I can reach only 1 person it will be worth it.

Tony Regan said...

Hi all,

How I can relate to this blog post, I am a survivor and my heart aches for those in that dark place and considering suicide. My goal is to reach anyone thinking that killing thereselves is the only solution. If I can reach only 1 person it will be worth it.