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The Tragic Story of Fernanda

Updated: Feb 27

Here's a taste of one of the most powerful stories in my book.

"Fernanda" means brave journey
Beautiful Fernanda

Because there were so many remarkable home health stories to share, I had to break them into three chapters: Advocacy, Heartache, and Friendship. Shocked by what I had encountered, the tragic story of Fernanda was a story for advocacy.

As nurses, we are frequently presented with the opportunity to advocate for others, whether it be the patient, the family, or both.

Never underestimate your power to affect an outcome - speak up.

Fernanda was not yet seventeen when she had the surgery. It was an elective surgery; however, I've often wondered if she would have proceeded had she known.


The young girl suffered from hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating. One can only imagine the stigma a high school girl would face if she were routinely soaked in perspiration. No doubt, the condition brought her a considerable amount of awkward embarrassment.

For the condition of hyperhidrosis, there are topical agents and anticholinergics that are sometimes prescribed. But if these prove ineffective, and the individual is determined to find a solution, they have no choice but to seek more aggressive treatment. Fernanda sought treatment.

Her treatment plan involved major thoracic surgery to remove the overactive sweat glands. I accepted the case to care for her postoperatively, and I anticipated that there may be potential post op problems, but I had never considered what I found. It was horrifying.

As I entered the home, I was escorted to a small bedroom where Fernanda was sitting patiently on the bed, her mother sat eagerly in a chair at the bedside, and her sister stood next to her mother. All were delighted to see me and excited to see the results of the surgery. I knew right away that surgery had sent my young patient home with a wound VAC, but it wasn't until she removed her blouse for the dressing to be changed that I realized the extent of the surgery.

In all my years of nursing, I've seen some horrific wounds, this was among the worst. The black foam dressings were everywhere, under both arms, on her chest and sides, and extending to her back. The depth was significant as well, and as I tried ever so gently to remove the foam covering the recently excised tissue, it revealed beefy red dark cavities of horror. Fernanda's sister screamed and fled the room; her mother clutched the cross that hung from a chain around her neck and wept hysterically while praying aloud. And although I too could not believe the extent of the damage, it was necessary that I remained expressionless. So, I held my breath as I climbed onto the bed with her, and I positioned myself up on my knees to remove the dressings on her back. She was a motionless symbol of stoicism, and I didn't dare ask her to move as I made every effort to calmly reassure her. It was indeed one of the most difficult dressing changes that I have ever performed. When I finished, I gently told Fernanda what a brave, brave girl she was. Then I stepped outside, phoned the surgeon and tore her a new one. I unashamedly informed her that this was not appropriate for home care, and if she expected the dressings to be done at home, then we were going to need some serious drugs! We needed drugs for this poor girl to endure such torture — and maybe a little something for the family and myself too...

To read this story in its entirety, check it out in the book:

Off the Chart A Nurse's Journey of Heart and Humor

Pick up your copy of at https://amzn.to/3RHn0nm


Published by Jennifer Tipton / This post may contain affiliate links.

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