Cincinnati Sub-Zero

A Letter to Critical Care Nurses at the 2018 AACN NTI and Expo

By Dr. Ruben J. Rucoba On May 10, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Dear High-Acuity and Critical Care Nurses,

shutterstock_157123514Thank you for saving my life.

I’m not exaggerating--you saved my life, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

In April 2016, I had a heart attack. I was perfectly alert in the ER, but on the table in the cardiac cath lab, I went into a bad rhythm, then into cardiogenic shock. After that, I went into liver failure and kidney failure. Some heroic efforts were needed to save me, including a few days on an Impella pump. The medical team called in my family to “say goodbye,” but I fooled them and recovered. I spent 10 days in the cardiac care unit, 7 of them under such heavy sedation that I don’t remember anything from that week. Within a few months, I was back to work full time, resumed all my usual activities, and I thank God for each day I’m alive.

And it’s all because of you.

Of course, you didn’t do it alone. As a physician, I know that success truly depends on every member of the medical team, from the greenest intern to the physical therapists to the cardiologists and the unit secretary.

But none of those people bathed me, or helped me to the commode, or wiped my butt, or positioned me so I wouldn’t get bedsores. You, nurses, did that. When I became diaphoretic but didn’t have a fever, it was a smart critical care nurse who wisely checked my blood sugar and recognized that I was dangerously hypoglycemic.

When I laid in bed with my leg sliced open from a fasciotomy and couldn’t move, you nurses helped dress it and care for it so it wouldn’t get infected and gave me pain meds to get through the night.

And although I’m also grateful to the doctors and therapists and everyone else who helped me recover, it’s the nurses whose faces I saw every minute of those days in the CCU that I’m most grateful for; whose smiles reassured me that I was in good hands, whose gentle touch comforted me when I was scared and alone.

When my wife, a nurse herself, was worried sick about me and baffled by the technology of the Impella pump and what it portended, nurses helped calm her fears and gave her appropriate guidance. And you didn’t just sugarcoat everything. You were open and honest with her about my chances, but she appreciated that. And when I woke up, and you told me I was going to be OK, it was your confidence that gave me the strength to fight for my recovery. And you were right.

You did all that, because that’s what you do, every day, for every patient. And it saved my life.

Obviously, I’m not surprised. After working closely with you for years as you expertly cared for my patients in the Neonatal ICU or the Pediatric ICU, I was fully aware of how special critical care nurses are. I’ve seen first hand how the parents of these children come to rely on you for information and solace, and they place the care of their children, in their most vulnerable condition, in your hands with complete confidence. Goodness knows I’ve certainly relied on your expertise in these situations. But I never truly understood how impactful and special the care you provide can be until I was a patient myself.

So, from the bottom of my now functioning heart and on behalf of all your patients, I thank you.

Ruben J. Rucoba, MD


Ruben J. Rucoba, MD is a pediatrician in a western suburb of Chicago, living an active life and still seeing patients as well as attending to administrative duties for his group’s practice.

CSZ Medical, a Gentherm company, is pleased to echo Dr. Rucoba’s heartfelt sentiments regarding critical care nurses and is proud to be able to provide patient warming and cooling products to support patient temperature management solutions in the critical care environment.

Visit us at booth no. 2121.

Thank you so much for what you do.

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*This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for the medical judgment of a physician in evaluating patients. For more information, please review the information sources referenced in this article. For more information on CSZ, please visit our website or call us at 1-800-989-7373.