Shades of Blue

September 17, 2014 6:06 PM

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Shades of Blue

All the recent media coverage of domestic violence made me realize what an opportunity we have as healthcare providers to help so many women who come to us, women who are already in such a vulnerable condition. There is one patient I will never forget. When I walked into the room, she was already in the triage bed, her eyes glued to the ceiling. At first glance, I didn't understand why she was lying in front of me. Her hair was disheveled, and she looked like she had just gotten out of bed, but she wasn't breathing through contractions or doubled over in pain. She was so still and silent. She just lay there, crying silently, tears falling effortlessly from her face. Obviously in distress, I asked her if she was contracting or bleeding, and she shook her head no. I asked her if she was in labor, and again, she only shook her head. She flinched when I went to raise her shirt to place the external monitors on her. As I lifted her shirt, I could see her belly covered in bruises. I remember having to shut my eyes for a moment. This was the first time I would have to care for someone who suffered from domestic violence. There was not a single mark on her face, but her arms and belly were covered with anger, visible in every shade of blue and black. I distinctly remember holding my breath as I placed the external monitors gently on her stomach. But it was no use. Her baby's heartbeat had been silenced by blows delivered with so much force and fury, even her arms shielding her stomach could not protect her baby. And at that moment, my questions of what was wrong were answered without the patient ever having to say a word. I knew then that the patient already knew her baby was dead. She was almost nine months pregnant.

You don't graduate from nursing school prepared to deal with these kinds of situations. That wasn't on any exam I ever had to take, or in any lesson ever given. As a nurse, you aren't given any kind of advanced warning that this is about to walk through the door. We can't get angry and yell, asking ...

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