From Nurse to Patient

Oct 10, 2018

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10 Things I Learned as a Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor

On the night of April 14, 2013, Jessica Kensky finished her shift as an oncology nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. Less than 24 hours later, she would be back at a hospital — as an ICU patient.

Jessica and her husband, Patrick, were standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when two bombs exploded nearby. They both sustained severe leg injuries, resulting in a single amputation for Patrick, a double amputation for Jessica and dozens of surgeries between them.

Recovery has given her plenty of time to think about how it feels to be on the other side of the bedrails. At the National Teaching Institute’s (NTI’s) Chapter Presidents’ Luncheon, in Boston last May, Jessica shared her top 10 takeaways for acute and critical care nurses.

  1. Leaving the ICU and going to the floor is scary. Even if it’s a step toward home, it is a world away from the people you have grown to love and trust. That’s why patients are scared to leave us.
  2. You can have a Foley catheter and still have the sensation to pee.
  3. PICC line insertions are not painless. I don’t know how many times I told patients. “We numb the site, you’ll just feel some pressure.” Now I know: They hurt!
  4. Sometimes you need to see the daylight; there’s no replacement for it. Get your patients outside whenever you can.
  5. Pain management is not a joke. It doesn’t always take medication to mitigate pain, but listen to your patients and treat their pain as something serious — because it is.
  6. It is possible to be delirious and embarrassed at the same time.
  7. Multiple surgeries plus narcotics plus immobility equals excruciating, life-changing constipation. Get bowel regimens going early.
  8. Once someone puts a cervical collar on you, finding someone to take it off is really hard. It became a joke in my family.
  9. Out of all of the drugs I’ve been given — Dilaudid, morphine, fentanyl, ketamine, Toradol, Percocet — what is my drug of choice? Benadryl. It is amazing. Just keep that in mind.
  10. Never let your surgical team touch your patients without you being in the room. I knew this one before but really learned it after being a patient myself.