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This Nurse’s Nightmare Saved a Life

The dream didn’t make any sense, until I got to work that night…

How a nurse's dream saved a baby
Credit: Photodisc

What a nightmare! I saw myself on a nursing shift, caring for my six-year-old brother Bill. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but he had a tracheotomy, a tube surgically inserted into his throat to help him breathe. He coughed too hard and the tube popped out. In a panic, I tried to reinsert it, but I kept failing. If I didn’t fix it he could suffocate…

Even after I opened my eyes and saw the afternoon sun peeping through the bedroom curtains, the terrifying scene remained seared in my mind. At that time I slept days and worked nights as a private duty nurse in Manhattan.

I quickly realized my nightmare didn’t make any sense. My little brother was in perfect health. He didn’t have a tracheotomy. And I wasn’t trained to fix these, anyway—that was the doctor’s job. I calmed down and fell back asleep.  

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That evening, I was sent to a Roosevelt Hospital in downtown Manhattan to care for a baby girl in the pediatric ward. I entered her room and stopped short. The baby had a tracheotomy tube.

Calm down, Pat, I thought. It’s a coincidence. Only a coincidence. The tubes rarely came out, certainly not as abruptly as the one did in my dream. Better safe than sorry, I inspected the insertion point.  It had healed, meaning it was likely secure. In a few hours, when it came time to change the bandages, I’d be sure to use extra special care.

Still, the memory of my nightmare lingered. I didn’t want someone to lose their little one—like I’d “lost” Bill—due to my lack of preparedness. What else could I do? I looked around. Nearby was an oxygen tank used to fill the oxygen tents. Hmm.

The time came to change the baby’s bandages. I proceeded carefully. Suddenly, she coughed, then coughed again, violently. The tracheotomy popped out! Without a second thought, I ran straight to the oxygen tank, turned it on and grabbed the tube attached to it. I held it to the baby’s throat so she could breathe. “Get the doctor here, quick,” I called to another nurse, “She needs her tracheotomy fixed!”

The doctor rushed in a minute later and quickly repaired the tracheotomy. “You’ve been well-trained,” he said. “You did just the right thing.”

Well-trained? Or well-warned?

Have you had a dream or nightmare you don’t understand?  Check out our dream chat on Facebook with dream expert Dr. Judith Orloff.

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