Karen and Susan’s story are a testament to the strength, commitment and love that defines their relationship. The “sudden event” of a ruptured brain aneurysm took them on a harrowing journey into hospitals, rehabilitation units, and care facilities. The title, “Where there is Breath, there is a Life”, defines the journey from the perspective of simply the act of breathing and the hope that life is still present. The word, ‘BREATH’, represents key concepts for the reader.
B defines “BIG Crisis”: Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH) is a type of hemorrhagic stroke that is usually caused by a ruptured brain aneurysm. Twenty percent of individuals who sustain SAH from this cause perish within hours of the event. The survivors are faced with countless potential complications and crisis that are known to commonly occur after SAH and threaten their lives. In Susan’s book, the natural course of the disease was evident as Karen’s body was affected in every organ system. Her brain suffered from increased pressure and the risk of rebleeding of the aneurysm while her heart and lungs experienced a shock similar to a heart attack. Once the aneurysm was sealed, the left-over blood in her brain produced irritation causing the 2-3-week period of vasospasm which can cause more strokes in the brain. Treating the vasospasm to avoid those strokes involve high risk procedures and require a highly advanced team of doctors, nurses, and technicians. This “BIG Crisis” had Karen fighting for her life, the hospital team using every treatment option and skill to keep her from dying, and Susan watching from the bedside as all of this unfolded. Susan’s reflections of the days in the ICU describe the perilous and stressful minutes, days and weeks that patients loved one’s experience while patients are fighting for their lives! How do all involved function and provide the best environment to survive?
R defines RELATIONSHIPS: When an individual (patient) enters the hospital, a relationship is established with the health care team. The patient’s loved ones become part of the team. Personal connections between staff, patients and families/loved ones are key to establishing trust between all involved. Nurses spend the most time with patients and their loved ones at the bedside and when patients remain in the hospital for a long period of time, relationships continue to develop and mature. It is not uncommon for families of ICU patients to become “part of the unit family” when the caring relationships mature over time. The goal for all involved is to optimize the outcome of the patient. Sometimes the eventual outcome is not what all hoped for and staff feel the loss as greatly as the families. The transition to another level of care often results in a frightful time for the patient and loved ones. As Susan describes it is like leaving the “womb”. The relationships help ease that transition.
E defines EMOTIONS: Loved ones of the patient may experience highs and lows in an hour or in a day. The critical care unit cares for individuals who are critically ill and often unstable. When talking with the patient’s loved ones, the team will describe a roller coaster to define the various emotions that are experienced. Staff are present to support the patient and family. It is ok to be scared. Staff keep in the backs of their minds how frightened families can be of the known and the unknown. Listening and providing reassurance and communicating information honestly and as often as necessary are essential to help ease the ups/downs.
A defines ADVOCATE: Susan’s perseverance and dedication to Karen are evident throughout the journey. Susan is Karen’s advocate and will move “heaven and earth” to ensure Karen receives the best care. Advocacy is essential and every patient must have an advocate! The ADVOCATE questions and reviews what is best for their loved one. In today’s health care system, an advocate is important to maximize the outcome for their loved one.
T defines TEAMWORK: Often most individuals refer to the health care team as the ones that possess teamwork. While that is true, true teamwork is when healthcare teams, patients, and their support team (families/loved ones/friends) come together to implement the treatments needed for the patient to survive. A simple example is when a physical therapist (PT) provides range of motion (ROM) for the unconscious patient in the bed to promote mobility. The PT can teach the family and loved ones to do the same ROM as they are sitting at the bedside for hours. Susan, her mother/brother, and close friends/family comprised TEAM KAREN as their presence on a daily basis created the larger team of practitioners caring for Karen.
H defines HOPE: There are two mottos on the wall in the SICU. The first is, “Where there is life-There is Hope”! The second is, “NEVER GIVE UP…NEVER SURRENDER”. The TEAM works tirelessly 24/7 to provide the best care possible and are driven by hope that the patient will survive and have an optimal outcome. Families and loved ones pray and believe in hope. Without hope, a hospital would be a very dim place. It keeps us going in the direst of circumstances. Physicians use their incredible skills and talents to save lives. Sometimes, they deliver grave news when complications occur, such as Karen’s cardiac arrest. The physicians also provide an outline or path of treatment that hopefully will result in an improved outcome. The team of nurses and therapists believe and maintain hope that the outcome will be successful. Karen’s support team maintains hope throughout the entire journey. Hope she would survive! Hope she would return home! Hope that Karen would be Karen once again! Hopes do come true especially when someone has BREATH and Life!
Forward by Mary Kay Bader RN MSN CCNS FNCS, FAHA Neuro/Critical Care CNS, Mission Hospital
Paperback: 240 pages
Publishing date: November 6, 2018
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
Price: $22.30 (paperback) $9.77 (e-book)
Susan M. Davis graduated from California State University Fullerton with a degree in English. She has been an 8th grade English teacher for 27 years. She is a former Teacher of the Year. Susan also has a Masters of Science in Educational Counseling. She just completed her MFA in Creative Writing Non-fiction from Fairfield University in Connecticut. Susan resides in Southern California with her wife, Karen Kozawa and their 3 Cocker Spaniels. Her favorite color is purple. If you know her, you will know this.