When the Nurse Becomes the Patient: A Story from the Frontlines

When the Nurse Becomes the Patient: A Story from the Frontlines

Most people never expect to get sick. But when it happens, it’s comforting to know you’re already in a hospital.

Sally Romero, a behavioral health nurse at Southern California Hospital at Culver City, thought everything was fine a few summers ago before she doubled over in severe pain and had to go to the hospital’s emergency department.

“I learned a new saying that day, mai dire mai, which means ‘never say never’ in Italian. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew something was very wrong. As a nurse, I knew I needed to get to the emergency room.”

Colleagues congregated there with Romero, where she learned that she had an elevated white blood cell count and a quarter-sized hole in her intestine, which was causing her to become septic.

“Send me home with some antibiotics and I’ll be fine,” Romero recalled telling the emergency department staff.

But after a CT scan, her emergency physician said, “Sally, if you go home you will die. You need surgery now.”

She underwent surgery immediately and spent another week in the hospital recovering.

“My experience as a patient cemented my hope and respect for the wonderful Culver City hospital where I work,” she said. “I experienced first-hand the amazing teamwork required to provide quality healthcare—from the crew of surgeons, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, housekeepers and cooks—to my colleagues on the behavioral health unit. I can say from personal experience that our patients are in good hands!”