Friday, September 13, 2013

The Elephant That Sat on My Chest
I was supervising on an afternoon shift, when I heard an overhead page for a “Blue alert” on our obstetric and gynecology unit. It made the hair stand up on my arms. That was an occurrence that had never happened to me before and I hurried to see what was happening on the unit.
The patient was a middle aged woman who had delivered an infant girl earlier in the day. The woman’s heart had stopped. When I arrived, CPR was already started and I took over doing chest compressions to relieve the nurse who was tiring. The closed chest compressions were necessary to keep the woman alive. Apparently the stress of labor and delivery was too much for her and she had a heart attack.
With our compressions, the support of her breathing function, and medications we were able to get her heart going again. She was transferred to our coronary care unit for monitoring and recovery.
When I checked on her the next evening, I explained that I was one of the hospital’s nursing supervisors and that I had done compressions on her chest when she arrested downstairs in the O.B. unit the day before.

She said, “So, you’re the elephant who sat on my chest.”
I laughed and we talked a bit more before I left her room.
Her nurse came over to me when I walked into the nursing station and said, “I heard what she said to you and just wanted to show you something.” She opened the chart and pointed to what she had written while charting earlier. “Patient states ‘It feels as though an elephant sat on my chest.’
I chuckled and left the unit feeling good that the woman was alive because "Me, the elephant” had done my job.

Many years later, a woman stopped me in the hallway of the hospital. She was with a beautiful teen aged girl. The woman turned to the girl and introduced me as “The elephant who sat on my chest when you were born.” Then she turned to me and said, “She’s graduating high school this year.”
I was awestruck. I am sure that my mouth was hanging open. This young lady was going to graduate this year and her mom was going to be around to see it. That was a great feeling to know that I had a part in keeping her mother alive for this milestone in the young girl’s life.

But the story doesn’t end there. A few years later, I heard my name being called. I turned and there was the same lady and her daughter.
            “We’re here for some blood tests.” She said. “My daughter is getting married this month.” and broke into a wide smile.
            I didn’t know what to say other than “Congratulations!” Such a feeling of wonderment and accomplishment flowed over me. Standing before me was this beautiful young woman about to be married and her mother was still living and able to see her walk down the aisle. What a rush of good feelings engulfed me.

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