Updated date:

Emotional Attachment

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession, and I enjoy writing about medical issues. I'm also interested in history, genealogy, and travel.

Hospital Room


ICU Teenage Patient

Joan walked into the intensive care unit at 6:40 AM as usual. She greeted Teresa while asking her how she was doing.

“For a Wednesday I am doing great. Only one more day this week, and I am off this weekend. Jan is over there complaining about her assignment as usual, and she is on the ‘code team’ today.”

“What else is new?” Joan said while laughing. “She is always complaining, and Pat is the charge nurse,” said Joan.

“Right, and you have a new 17-year-old head patient with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but it is a closed head injury.”

“Well, I had better go get the report,” replied Joan.

Joan listened to the taped report from John, the night RN. John was still in the patient’s room working. Apparently, Jeremy Anderson was sitting in the passenger window of a car while eating a donut. The car was being driven by a friend when there was an accident. Jeremy was thrown head first out of the car and hit his head on a palm tree He was unconscious when the first responders found him.

Joan would only care for this one patient today as he was too unstable for her to take a second patient.

“Wow, that is a horrible story,” Joan said to John.

“He has all the bells and whistles now, and I know you heard that when you listened to the report. The Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score is not great, but not horrible either. He has been a little unstable, so it will be a busy day.”

When Joan went into the room to assess Jeremy as traumatic brain injury treatment is complex. She checked the ICP catheter that is used to measure the intracerebral pressure and drain off excess fluid when the pressure is too high. He had multiple IV lines, the ventilator, an arterial line and wires that seemed to go everywhere.

She talked to Jeremy even though he was in a coma. “Jeremy, you are in the hospital

You were hurt in a car accident last night. I am your nurse, and my name is Joan.” She knew hearing is the last sense to go. She was busy throughout the day, and she skipped lunch to be in the room with Jeremy.

Various doctors came in and asked questions. The neurosurgeon came in said, “We cannot fix this young man with surgery, unfortunately, but I hope he pulls through without brain damage.”

“Me too,” replied Joan. Joan proceeded to go through the routine of checking and recording all the vital signs and readings. She kept his blood pressure and ICP readings at the appropriate readings, draining cerebrospinal fluid as necessary.

Talking to the Mother

When visiting hours arrived, Joan watched Jeremy’s mother walked into the room.

“Hi. Are you Jeremy’s mother?”

“Yes, yes I am. He looks awful with all this equipment. Promise me that he will be okay. He is the only thing I have, and I can’t lose him,” she said as tears flowed down her cheeks.

“Mrs. Andersson. I can’t make that promise as this is a very serious injury, but I want you to know we are doing everything in our power to save him. So, he doesn't have any siblings?”

“No, it is just us. His father died while serving in the Air Force. I just cannot lose him too! He is a good boy who did something stupid, but he should not die,” Mrs. Anderson said with a weak voice.

“I understand.”

Joan felt the grief of Jeremy's mother and wanted to help this young man recover. The shift continued, and Joan kept him stable as did the night nurses, but he was not showing signs of waking up over the next 3 days. Joan was assigned for those days to keep the continuity of care. Joan talked to him throughout each day as she turned him and cared for him.

Mrs. Anderson arrived at each visiting time with an anxious look on her face.

One of the ICU doctors, who was doing a fellowship, came in the room each day. On Thursday he walked in and said, “We are beating a dead horse here.”

Joan got riled up. She said, “He is only 17, and young people have more regenerative ability than older people.”

“I know, but I don’t think he is going to make it.”

“Well, I do,” replied Jennifer in a haughty manner. The doctor left without writing any new orders. Joan noted by Friday that Jeremy was making some improvement.

Joan met Teresa while walking out the door at the end of Friday’s shift. Teresa said, “It has been chaos today! We had 2 codes, but everyone lived, so I guess that is the upside.”

“You know you are an adrenal junky, right?” Joan teased.

“You could be right, but take your own inventory,” Teresa laughed.

“Do you want to grab something to eat?” Joan asked.

“I can’t tonight as I have to pick up Jordan from baseball practice.”

“I understand, the kids come first. Right?”

“You bet,” said Teresa. “Even when you are exhausted, but I am off tomorrow.”

“Enjoy your weekend. I have to work Saturday, but I am off on Sunday, thank goodness.”

By Saturday Joan felt the stress of 4 twelve hour shifts in a row. Usually she never worked more than 3 shifts in a row, but she had the next two days off.

The neurologist came in early on Saturday and said he was going to remove the ICP catheter. Jeremy was responding to touch, and his vital signs were stable.

When Mrs. Anderson came in during the visiting time, Joan said, “I have some good news for you. The ICP catheter has been removed, and Jeremy just might respond even more to your voice today.”

“The doctor came to the waiting room and explained Jeremy’s progress to me.”

“I am glad he did that. He is such a good doctor.”

“Yes he is, and I liked him from the beginning. He said we have a long road ahead as we don’t know how much brain damage could have occurred.”

Joan’s Saturday shift was uneventful, and she was happy she had the next two days off. Jeremy was taken off the ventilator, and he was breathing well on his own.



The Reward

When she arrived back at work on Tuesday, Jeremy had been moved up to the step-down unit.

During Joan’s lunch break, she went up to Jeremy’s room. Much to her surprise, he was sitting up in bed, and his mother was helping him eat. Mrs. Anderson smiled at Joan when she walked in the room. She stood up and walked over to Joan, and hugged her while whispering “Thank you”

Joan had no way to gauge how long rehabilitation would be for Jeremy or how fully he would recover, but she was so happy that Mrs. Anderson had her son back.

Louis Armstrong - What a Wonderful World

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 27, 2020:

Hi Peggy, This was an experience I will always remember. Thank you for commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Knowing that the Joan in the story was you, made reading this even more enjoyable. I am so happy for Jeremy and his mother that he survived. Hopefully, he went on to lead a normal and happy life.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 26, 2019:

Hi Chitrangada, I am so glad you enjoyed this true story. I think some people are just meant to be nurses, as it surely is not a career for everyone. Thank you so much for your very nice comments as they are much appreciated.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 26, 2019:

Such a heart warming story, rather true story.

I often wonder about the patience and dedication of the nurses. How they always keep a smile on their faces and keep on encouraging the patients and their relatives, besides performing their duties. Their sincerity and dedication is worth appreciating.

Please accept my gratitude for your services as a caring nurse.

Well written story and I am so thankful for the happy ending.

Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 26, 2019:

Hi Maria, Yes, I was Joan, and the story of that boy is true. It is one of my clear memories of caring for a patient, and maybe getting too emotionally attached. I loved nursing though, and I think it was what I was born to do. Thanks so much for commenting.

Have a good day with your students. Love, Pam

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on June 26, 2019:

Dear Pam,

I suspected that you were "Joan". This story shows me what a caring and compassionate nurse you are - a true patient and family advocate.

Beautiful story with a beautiful ending (beginning?) Thanks for the morning smile as I head off to my students.

Have a peaceful day. Love, Maria

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2019:

Hi Flouish, Yes, I am Joan in this story. Thank you for your kind comments.

I really did love nursing, even with the stress. Sometimes I might have cared too much, but I thought it was my job. The rewards were many.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 19, 2019:

You are (or Joan is) precisely the type of nurse I'd want beside me or someone I loved. What an uplifting story.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2019:

Hi Ms Dora, As this is basically a true story, I was perhaps overly invested in this young man's care. I am very happy that you enjoyed this story.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 19, 2019:

Pam, I love your heartwarming stories. So much caring in this one, and finally renewal and restoration. Thanks for a good well-told tale.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2019:

Hi Pop, Doctors come in all shapes and sizes so to speak. Some seem to enjoy talking over the patient's head, so the patient is clueless. Others are great. Thanks for commenting.

breakfastpop on June 19, 2019:

I have encountered doctors and nurses who said very alarming things to patients, myself included. In fact, a very fine doctor who was also a professor at Columbia Presbyterian in Manhattan asked me to write about my experiences so that he could share it with his students.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2019:

Hi Linda, You definitely experience unusal events as a RN. This particularly boy really meant so much to me since he recovered. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 19, 2019:

Hi Doris, Yes, this is a true story, and not all of the doctors were like the one in his fellowship. That remark really upset me at the time.

When my mother had to have her lower leg amputated, the doctor pryed with us before the surgery, which was so wonderful I am glad to hear about your mother's experiece. Thank you so much for your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2019:

I'm so glad that the boy recovered, especially after reading that this was a true story. You must have had some interesting and sometimes heartrending experiences as a nurse.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 18, 2019:

Pamela, this is beautiful. I gather this must be a true story? I'm shocked that the doctors weren't more careful in what they said in the presence of a comatose patient.

I notice you said you prayed for this boy. My mother battled cancer for 10 years before she finally passed away. Her regular doctor and her cancer surgeon both held prayer sessions with her and the family before any procedure they did on her (with the exception of regular chemo treatments.) Maybe that's why she lasted 10 more years.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Linda, Believe me I prayed for this boy, and I should have put that in my story. I think doctors do believe in God, but there is not much talk about anything in the ICU, so I don't have any idea about doctors over all.

I am glad you enjoyed this story and that is was uplifting for you Linda. Thank you for your comments. God bless you.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 18, 2019:

Pamela, as I read this and take in the thoughts and attitudes of the doctors vs the nurses, I wonder if faith comes into play. I know many scientists who, because of their training, do not believe in a higher being. Perhaps some doctors are of the same mind and do not recognize how powerful prayer can be.

Thank you for another beautiful, uplifting story. I needed this one today.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Bill, Since this story is based on a true story that happened to me the ending was happy. Thanks for commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 18, 2019:

Give me a happy ending any old time. Your stories are considerably more uplifting than mine. lol

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Lorna, I wanted him to survive so badly, and he did. Thank you for commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Liz, This particular case is one that always stays with me. Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Patti, I agree with you comletely. I always talked to my patients, and I have had people remember a few words when it doesn't seem possible.

I hope you are right about someone seeing this article who needs encouragment. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:

Hi Lora, I am glad you enjoyed this story. As nurses we are told not to get too emotionally involved as it could interfere with the out patient care. It is very hard where young people are concerned. Thak you so much for your generous comments.

Lorna Lamon on June 18, 2019:

This is such a heartfelt story Pamela and very moving. It would have been very difficult not to become emotionally attached and I am so glad he survived. Inspiring.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 18, 2019:

This is a really encouraging story, well-written and drawing deeply on your medical experience.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 17, 2019:

I am glad someone was talking to Jeremy when he was unconscious, because it can bring people back from wherever a coma takes them -- I've also seen a few remain in coma, become brain dead, and then reboot and come back to life without signs of brain damage. It is indeed a wonderful world full of possibilities and working with TBI patients via adjunct therapies proved it to me many times over.

Thank you for this encouraging article that is sure to help others who read it. At some time, it is going to be exactly what a reader needs to see.

Lora Hollings on June 17, 2019:

A wonderful story, Pamela! It certainly held my interest as I continually kept asking what was going to be the outcome for this young 17 year old boy. I can't imagine what it must be like to work in the ICU with patients that are so critical. I'm sure it must be difficult to lose any patient but especially one that is so young! I loved the character of Joan who was so well portrayed as a nurse who really became emotionally attached to her patient and showed so much empathy for Jeremy's mother. I really liked the ending too. Thank you for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 17, 2019:

Hi Eric,

It is terrible for some people. I am sorry you had this experience.

This is actually a true story that happeed to me as a nurse. I took care of this 17 year old, and he survived. I was much too emotionally attached to him as I wanted him to live so badly.

I hope you don't ever experience the ICU again.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 17, 2019:

Look over there for I am tearing. Thank you for this feeling.

I have been in ICU 3 times and woke up some place else. Must be terrible.

Related Articles