Recently, I came to work just like any other day. I started seeing patients in the morning and after our visit, some would head back to our infusion center to receive treatment. I have always had confidence in our nurses and know our patients are in good hands. That morning, patient TD came to see me with his wife as he always does. He recently had a CT scan showing a progression of the disease and the plan was for him to receive a new treatment that day. We discussed the new treatment and reviewed potential side effects. He stood up and walked back to the infusion center as he usually did. His wife wasn't feeling well that day and she went home to get some rest.
Michelle greeted him in the back and again reviewed the new treatment regimen with him including potential side effects. He started receiving one of the drugs and completed the infusion. At 10:30 am, Michelle came to my office and said something wasn't right. Mr. D had coughed up a tablespoon of blood. I looked up from the computer work I was doing and saw Michelle's face. TD was sick, something was very wrong. We started walking towards the infusion center together. As we did, our clinical pharmacist started running towards us screaming that Mr. D was coughing up copious amounts of blood. When we got to the infusion center, less than one minute after Michelle came to alert me, Mr. D was hemorrhaging. There was blood everywhere and he was becoming cyanotic. As we approached him he mouthed to us that he couldn't breathe.
Michelle and I immediately went into emergency mode. 911 was called but we knew it would take minutes for them to get to our patient. We attempted to give him oxygen but blood was pouring out of him. I made the decision to try to get him to the Emergency Room where he would be able to get a life-saving airway in place. Michelle worked swiftly and professionally. She and I barely spoke two words to each other as we started towards the ED but the unspoken communication was so clear. In the brief moments that we started towards the emergency room, TD continued to hemorrhage blood leaving a trail as we went. Then, Mr. D went limp. He was not breathing and had no pulse. Michelle immediately recognized what was happening. We lowered the patient to the floor and she started CPR. As we traded off performing chest compressions, blood was pouring out of the patient's nose and mouth. We had an AED machine and attempted to shock the patient on multiple occasions in between CPR but no shock was advised. There was blood everywhere and Michelle kept going. She never stopped and kept her complete attention on trying to help Mr. D. We continued CPR until EMS arrived 21 minutes later. Mr. D had no pulse and pupils were fixed and dilated. He passed away right in front of us.
Many things happened in the minutes that passed from there. The patient's wife was called and she returned to the infusion center where we told her what had happened. Michelle helped to move and clean Mr. D's body so that the patient's wife and family could spend time with him. Michelle and our team stood vigil with the family near the patient for 3 hours as they said their goodbyes.
Being in the healthcare profession, we make a lot of sacrifices. We spend years training to be good at our job and we spend time away from our family. Michelle lived through a trauma that morning. In my 10 years in practice, I have never experienced anything similar to what happened that morning. Michelle demonstrated such professionalism and grace. She put her own emotions aside to be a hero for this patient. She continued CPR even when it became clear our patient was gone. She implicitly jumped into action and took on her team role with complete focus to get this patient help.
Mr. D passed away. We are all living through what happened that morning. Even in the week after the event when we went through trauma counseling as a team, Michelle was quick to validate others’ thoughts and emotions. In her moment of grieving, she was a comfort to everyone including myself.
When I talk to our patients about being treated in our infusion center, I tell them about our amazing nurses. Being an oncology nurse takes a special person. We are humbled every day with the experiences of our patients and are constantly reminded of how special life is. Not many jobs offer that. Finding ourselves in an extraordinary situation, Michelle displayed exemplary professionalism and grace. I am proud to have her on our team and honored to work by her side every day.
I want Michelle to know how important she is to our team and what a difference she made in the life and passing of Mr. D.