Today I Held a Hand
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Posted by: Shanna Howard
By Erin Perez, DNP, APRN, ANP-C, AGNP-C, ACHPN
Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner
Today I held a hand.
I held a cold hand that was covered in dried blood and dressings from an arterial line that was mottled with purple webbing from artificial blood pressure support.
Today I held a hand to help bring comfort to a patient in an intensive care unit bed.
I held your hand as I wiped your face as blood was coming out of your nose, around the nasogastric tube we placed to decompress your stomach. I wiped your cheeks as blood came down your nose and saturated the pads in placed meant to hold your breathing tube that connected your ventilator as the machine breathed for you as you could not. I wiped you mouth that required more oral suction as frank blood continued to seep out.
I held your hand as the other nurses and doctors came to your bed as the extensive artificial life support with medications, breathing machine, continuous renal replacement therapy and balloon pump were not enough to keep your weary body going.
I held your hand as we called your family.
I held your hand as I told your family that your earthly time is coming to an end soon and that we have an opportunity to make sure your last moments are more comfortable and provide you a more dignified death as you transition to heaven.
I held your hand as your family said to make sure you were comfortable and did not suffer anymore.
I held your hand as the chaplain came by.
I held your hand as your pulses came and went with the alarms in concert.
I held your hand as I had the other nurses go call back the doctors as your time on earth was done.
I held your hand as the doctor did the “official pronouncement” even though we all knew you had left moments earlier.
I held your hand as we began to peel back the medical technology layers that attempted to keep your body going.
I held your hand as we changed your gown soaked in blood and changed your bed.
I held your hand as I cleaned every nail bed and the rest of your hands and arms and placed pressure dressings over where the IV sites were.
I held your hand as they cleaned your feet and legs.
I held your hands as I asked for the lavender lotion. I began to let go of your hand as I gently massaged the lavender lotion on your hands, arms and legs.
I held your hand as we replaced a crisp white sheet and comforter across your cleaned body and gown.
I held your hand one last time as I said a silent prayer for you and your family.
I let your hand go as I replaced and positioned your hands and arms on clean bedding and replaced the side rails so the bed was neat. You look so much better the other staff said. You look at peace now.
I touched your hand then walked and paused a moment and touched your tip toes as I was done holding your hand.
Today nurses of all backgrounds and training will hold a hand today.
For families that cannot be here due to this COVID pandemic. Know that I and my nursing colleagues will be there to hold their hand if your loved one’s time on earth is completed.
Nurses are here to hold your hands in good times and bad.
May you know how very honored nurses are to be able to hold the hands in these sacred times of great joy, sorrow and need.
May God give you peace and grace as we all walk this journey of life ahead, hand in hand- Together We Can!
Read Emotional Challenges and Finding Space for Self-Care by the author.
Painting by artist Amanda Lynne.