Several days ago, the neurologist treating Nathan held a family conference, and updated them on his prognosis.
“Nathan’s spinal cord was severely damaged in the accident. While there maybe some improvement after several months of healing, he will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. However, I believe that Nathan will not be ventilator dependent as he is during this acute phase. Since it may take many weeks for Nathan to breathe on his own without mechanical support, I recommend we place a temporary trach until he fully recovers and gets stronger.”
As the nurse caring for Nathan this shift, I was present at the family conference. Liz was prepared for the news, but openly sobbed anyway.
Frank had a lot of questions for the neurologist.
“What makes you so sure Nathan’s spinal cord damage is permanent? What about alternative treatments?” and “If we transfer Nathan to another hospital that specializes in this sort of care, would they offer more advanced treatment that could heal him?”
The physician answered his questions with patience and empathy.
I watched Frank as the neurologist answered his questions. Chameleon-like, his facial expressions changed from sorrow, to anger, to tears, and then to stone. Sitting in a chair next to Liz, I noticed he was lightly kicking her in the ankle under the room’s coffee table. She appeared not to notice. I almost said something, but thought better of it. A few minutes after the conference ended, he left the hospital.
Liz stayed in the conference room, asking more questions about what rehab services for Nathan will be offered, and how long would he be there as an inpatient.
I went back to the PICU, and resumed Nathan’s care.
“How’s Liz holding up?” asked Sue.
“Like a nurse. She’s focusing on what’s next; asking about rehab services, and what equipment she’ll need when he comes home. I don’t think his dad, Frank, is doing so good though. He was kicking her under the table during the family conference.”
Sue frowned. “I’ll have a talk with the nursing supervisor about that,” she said. “We may have to place some boundaries on Frank’s visits. Night shift said he came in late last night, intoxicated. When he started acting out they had security escort him to the hospital parking lot, and he took Uber home.”
I have a very bad feeling about Frank.