A Mom’s Experience with an Amazing PICU Nurse
After watching her eight-year-old son go through bypass surgery marked by several complications this concerned mother found comfort in a special PICU nurse named Chris. In this letter, she shares her experience and sheds light on what it’s like to have a child in the pediatric intensive care unit and the differences nurses make:
To whom it may concern,
Back in October of 2015, my eight-year-old son spent five days at the University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital after having an aorta to femoral bypass surgery of a blocked iliac artery, an extremely unusual condition in a child. Chances are he was born with that condition, but we will never know for sure.
The procedure and recovery became a bit complicated to manage on a logistics level since Shands is a three-hour drive away from our house. The complications were worth it because I knew he was in the best of hands, which meant the world to me.
We spent the first four days after surgery in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of the hospital. Each PICU nurse was amazing, but there was one particular nurse that stood out from all others. His name was Chris, he was one of the most seasoned nurses and my son really gravitated towards him. We were lucky enough to have Chris for a few days.
His name was Chris, he was one of the most seasoned nurses and my son really gravitated towards him.
As if my eight-year-old having a bypass surgery wasn’t scary enough, his bad reaction to medication just about drove me to a mental breakdown. He went into an acute state of psychosis. The head of the PICU said he went “mad hatter crazy”. Let’s call it the worst 24 hours of my life.
It started off kind of funny where my son saw marshmallows and unicorns. Then after several hours, it transformed where he thought he was playing sports and his entire body would move as he thought he was going up for a catch. Imagine the pain trying to jump out of bed for an imaginary pass after having a huge incision going down his abdomen. He would then scream in pain. Chris was there every step of the way with us.
Chris was there every step of the way with us.
Things started getting even worse where my son became very scared and physical. He thought there was a guy with a gun in his school and I guess in his mind he was trying to escape. They had to pad his bed so he wouldn’t hurt himself. He couldn’t be left alone.
After about 20 hours of this, I was at my breaking point and beyond exhausted. It was so hard to watch him be petrified and in pain hour after hour. They were administering drugs to sedate him but it still wasn’t working. He had to let the initial medicine work its way through his system. My husband was with our other children and we had no family nearby.
Chris got someone to come sit with my son so I could try to sleep for a couple hours. Chris was there to lift my son back into bed and care for him. And eventually, when his psychosis broke he helped him get up and walk around to start the healing process. He had a tough love attitude that worked well with my son.
Let’s call it the worst 24 hours of my life
Thankfully my son’s recovery started to improve. I remember Chris coming in for his shift and seeing my son back to normal after sleeping for almost an entire day. I was a bit more relaxed and got a chance to ask Chris some questions about himself as I was so intrigued by him.
Chris had been working as a PICU nurse for over 10 years. But he told me he was going back to school to get his RN-BSN because the hospital was beginning to require all of their nurses have a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). Chris was married with a child and I can only imagine how busy life would be to be working full time as a PICU nurse and then go back to school and have a family. But he told me he wouldn’t want to do anything else.
He said any other job would just be boring to him. He liked the action and the adrenaline from working in the PICU. He also liked working with kids, so it seemed like the perfect fit for him.
We have to take my son back to Shand’s every few months for check-ups and at some point, he will have to have another bypass surgery. I hope Chris is still around to care for him.
A grateful mom of a PICU patient