Thursday, June 4, 2009

Drunken fight and snow, not a good mix!


I got report and was told about this guy that had frostbite on his hands and feet. The nurse giving me report explained what had happened then told me to have a good night. . "Oh and by the way, he is on his call light about every 5 minutes. . . see ya tomorrow!", she said giggling as she walked away.

Well that is never a good sign. I started doing my rounds seeing all my other patients thinking I should get as much done as I could before he starting calling. When I made it to his room NOTHING could have prepared me for what I was about to see. The nurse did not give me a good report, obviously! In my mind I thought this man had SOME frost bite, we were treating and would be back to normal before ya know it.

What I saw when I walked in was an 50'something year old man that looked about 70'ish. The tip of his nose was completely black, the rest of his skin was dark (kinda like age vs diabetes vs bad circulation) and wrinkly, he had not a tooth in his head, he looked to weigh around 100 pounds on a good day after a huge meal, and his hands and feet were thickly wrapped in kerlex. He was laying in bed mostly uncovered with a T-shirt on and an adult diaper that was totally open. Both of his hands, well his dressings on his hands were covered in BM. When I asked him what had happened he looked at me like I was from another planet. He saw nothing wrong with the way his dressings looked or smelled.

I got him cleaned up from the mess, changed his whole bed, and started to undress his hands. What I found under his dressing made me want to throw up. His hands, BOTH OF THEM, were as black as cole. They were hard as a rock and he obviously had no feeling in them. They looked like if he hit them to hard on something the fingers would simply just break off and crumble. His hands were frozen in such a way that it looked like they had frozed while holding a glass. He was totally unable to move them at all.

I put the new dressings on and asked him what had happened. How did they get this way. He said he was drinking on night with his girlfriend and they started arguing. He went outside to "cool off" and smoke and the next thing he knew he was waking up in the hospital. He had fallen while outside in the snow, with no coat, gloves, OR shoes! His girlfriend was so mad and drunk herself that she left him there and went back to her house. A neighbor had found him and called 911.

He told me they were wanting to amputate his hands and his feet but he didn't want them to. He was going to go home and with all his limbs and live life as normal. I tried to explain to him that his hands and feet were too bad and wouldn't come back, they were not going to heal. He seriously looked at me and asked, "would you let them cut off your hands and feet, or would you just rather die?"

I told him that he cold still have a productive life without his hands and feet and they could get special devices to help him. He still was not interested. So I thought I would go the route of reason. He told me he lived alone. So I went that route. I asked him who was going to fix his meals, feed him, help him bathe, wipe his butt, and clean up after him. He told me he had a friend that he had been friends with for about 20 years that needed a place to live. He had been homeless for some time. "If I let him live with me I am sure he will do all those things", he said. All I can say is that is ONE GOOD FRIEND!!! I am not sure I have a friend that would put up with my attitude (if it was like his), let alone wipe my butt and feed me and be at my beckon call.

I then proceeded to tell him that the hands and feet would not get any better, they would eventually become infected and probably start falling off at home. He was still very determined to go home that way. Not to a rehab or nursing home but to HIS home. Then he said, "all I have to do is find out where this friend is and tell him he can live with me, but I'm not sure where he is."

He did end up going home after about 4 more days in the hospital. I don't know how much help he had at home since I only took care of him that one night. What I do know is that he was back within a week getting both hands and feet amputated. Then he did in fact go to a rehab center of some sort. I have no idea where he is now. Hopefully he is living life, no drinking, and has someone to teach him about assistive devices to help him go about everyday living as best he can. He was so young to be so old. He had made a rough life for himself and I am not sure he knew he could be any better. I am not sure anyone ever told him he could be any better or that he was worth more than that. That his life did matter.

He was a demanding patient, he did make my life crazy that night. AND, I am glad I was able to care for him compassionately and be real with him about his health. I really felt like I had been a nurse that night. Not just someone who comes and checks on you, gives you pills, and does a mound of paperwork. We got to know each other, and spent alot of time talking. I think he was kinda lonely. So it was ok with me that he wanted some kind of snack about every hour and I had to feed it to him. That meant that he got to see a real person, and have a conversation and someone to sit with him for at least 10-15 minutes out of every hour.

I hope my little frostbite man is doing well today!

Lesson in this. . . . don't get drunk, walk out on your girlfriend while there is snow on the ground! Your life may never be the same after that one bad decision. . . .



  1. Your compassion brings me to tears almost everytime I read your stories. . .
    God is really working through your life, your hands, your nursing skills and his love abounds in your heart.
    What a blessing you are!

  2. Hey! Hope things are going okay your way, the blog invites are by email so just send me whatever email you want me to send it to and I'll add you to the list.

  3. Ouuuch! My toenails hurt after reading and looking at that serious foot picture. I am glad I don't drink anymore and that I don't foresee walking out...:)

  4. You are an amazing nurse. This is so sad.

  5. Surfing - My hands and feet hurt after seeing what I did when I took those dressings off. Made me thankful that I don't drink and that I have a warm home to go home to each winter night.

    Southern Drawl - Thanks for the compliment! You are right, this was incredibly sad!