Utterly speechless. I have a patient battling a degenerative illness, the specifics don't matter. She's been stable, but one of her issues is a growing dysphagia-- difficulty swallowing-- so we've been feeding her through an IV. I mean, this is sort of the least of her problems, but it's absolutely a problem. But she's been doing okay given her situation, she's stable, she's breathing, she's alert.
Her family comes to visit. No one even knew her family had come-- we didn't know until someone runs into the hall screaming--
They brought her ice cream. "Oh, we knew she wasn't allowed to have any food," they said, after the fact, "but we thought a little ice cream couldn't hurt."
Uh, she aspirated. She couldn't swallow, the ice cream went into her lungs, she choked on it basically. As soon as they ran into the hall screaming, we called a rapid response, it ended up being a full code, we lost her pulse, finally we were able to get her back-- but she's in the ICU, the prognosis is not very good, whatever limited function she had before is probably not going to return.
So her family basically killed her. Oops. They're beyond distraught about it-- I've seen families who would not be distraught about stuff like this, I've seen families who come in hoping there's something they can unplug or some way to end someone's suffering-- but these people are beyond distraught, and I don't really know what to say to them.
Because they basically killed her.
Look, there was a sign above her bed. "Nothing by mouth." And the family knew she wasn't allowed to have food. We can't police these things 24/7, she was stable, she wasn't in a 1-to-1 nurse/patient situation. No one's monitoring visitors. You can go into someone's room, smother them with a pillow, and be back in the elevator before anyone will notice. This isn't prison. It would be easy to blame us for what happened-- how's the family supposed to know no ice cream-- but I don't know what we could have done differently. And it's not like they did this on purpose, but between us and the family, I feel like the blame here has to fall on them.
And they're going to sue. I'm sure they're going to sue, because the first person I saw when we finished transferring her to the ICU was someone in a suit, who I'm sure was from the risk management office, interviewing her nurse about what happened.
They killed her with ice cream. I don't know what to say. They killed her with ice cream. Speechless.