An RN’s Tale: Our Little Hospital Ghost
This cell phone picture was taken by a night nurse in Ersilia's unit. Photo courtesy of Ersilia Pompilio.
Ersilia Pompilio | Scrubs Magazine
It was 11:30 p.m. on a rainy Friday night. I had just given in to my scheduler’s pleas and agreed to cover a night shift in Pediatrics. The secretary looked up from her computer as I approached the nursing station. Then:
“You’re late,” sneered the charge nurse. Before I could answer, she shoved a packet of papers in my face.
My load was heavy. I had four patients all to myself, total care. One of them was a three-day-old, full-term infant male, born with gastroschisis and only one minimally functioning kidney, left to die in a room. I was only to provide supportive care: keep him comfortable until he passed. There was no family involved. The other three patients were fresh post-ops from earlier that day, all in the same room.
I was kicking myself for coming in. It was going to be a long night, but I needed the money. The poor gastroschisis baby was screaming a blood-curdling cry in his crib. To soothe him, I injected his prescribed morphine through his IV. He began to calm down and fall asleep. At least for now, he was out of his misery and quiet. I made sure his vital signs were normal and quickly went to assess my post-op patients across the hall.
Before I knew it, it was four o’clock in the morning and time to take the last vital signs for the shift. I was in the middle of changing an abdominal dressing when I heard the screeching cry again. The baby was awake and in pain; it had been three hours since his last pain med. Meanwhile, my other patient’s IV was beeping “occlusion.” How I hated that sound. Silently, I wished for some help.
Suddenly the baby’s crying ceased. I looked across the way to his room and saw someone hunched over his crib. Thankfully, one of the nurses stopped in to help. I finished the dressing change, cleared the occlusion and went to check on the baby.
“Hello?” I said into the room, but no one responded. The baby was smiling, staring at the ceiling. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I left the room and walked out to the nurses’ station, where the charge nurse was busy making the morning assignment.
“Did you medicate my baby with the gastroschisis?” I asked with a slight quiver in my voice.
“What?” she said, looking up from her papers with a frown.
“I saw someone in the room with the baby…was that you?” I urged.
“No, you must be seeing things!” she said, continuing on with her work.
Confused, I proceeded with closing my charts for the shift—until a mother of one of my patients approached me, disheveled and wide-eyed.