When I walked in, I couldn’t see my father’s face right away. One leg was hanging out the bed. Embarrassed, I asked him what was he doing, but he did not respond. I asked him a second time as I was covering him up. The TV went to a commercial at that moment and the light hit his face which was down against the railing. He was positioned like he was trying to get out, perhaps trying to get help. When I looked closer, I saw that my father was taking his last breath. I knew immediately that it was his last breath, as my step father had died in my arms. Their last breaths were identical.
I ran out calling for help.
A nurse came. During this time I’m yelling, “Where were you, where were you?” One nurse had the nerve to tell me, “You need to calm down!” I told her, “Don’t tell me to calm down! Where were you? Why wasn’t a code called for him?” She had no answer.
I had been in the room with my dad. No nurse had been present. No machine had alerted them to his deteriorating condition. Someone should have seen him, visually, as recommended by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
My father was intubated and placed on life support. I found out by reading his medical records that he had gone into a coma, was brain dead, suffered paralysis and necrosis. No one at the hospital told me that. He was in a coma for seven days and he never came out of it. Research shows, those types of adverse events are sustained from going too long without oxygen. What happened to Curtis James Bentley from 4-4:45? Was he calling for me? This was a critical moment that was not documented and haunts me.
A day or so after the code, I talked to the charge/manager nurse about what her staff had done (or rather not done) on that awful morning. She brought one of her fellow nurses in as a witness, I guess. My sister was there, too. I explained to her that there was no one around when my dad coded. No one was at the station monitoring him, nor any of the other patients for that matter – all except for the neighboring patient for whom the Code Blue had been called.
Our focus is on one patient
The charge/manager nurse told me “Well, when our adrenaline gets going, our focus is on one patient.”
I took a deep breath. The tears started rolling. I asked her, “You mean to tell me, if you have 15 patients on ICU, they are going to go uncared for because your focus is on one patient!?” She couldn’t say a word. She knew that was the wrong thing to say. She had just admitted that they had neglected to treat my father, while attending to that one neighboring patient.
I told her she shouldn’t say that to people. Then she said, “I’m sorry; someone is supposed to be monitoring these patients at all times.” I expressed my guilt for leaving his side and she fed me this story about leaving her mother home alone. She died too. It brought no comfort to me. Not after what she had previously said.
During those next seven days, I talked to my father, because I was told the hearing is the last to go. I called to him. I begged him not to go. I finally said enough is enough. It took everything in me to sign the form to take him off life support. My oldest sister and I lay on his chest until … My baby sister and my best friend were there giving us much needed support. I had to endure those last breaths…one-last-time…
This nurse and her colleagues had dropped the ball. But, tragically, this was not a game – my father lost his life, because they dropped the ball.