Sunday

When 6 Months Becomes Now...

This is an archived post that I wrote while in clinicals for nursing school. I remember this day like it was yesterday...

What would you do? When 6 months to live becomes today...is the end? I had never before seen the end of life. I had never watched it come to an end. Then I decided to become a nurse.

I knew that inevitably this day would come. I knew that I couldn't avoid it; especially when I want to work in pediatric intensive care or neonatal intensive care. This day would come.

It just so happened that it came for me in clinicals. After working with this patient & their family for nearly 3 weeks, I came to know them well. I came to understand where they were; what they were feeling.

At the same time, though, I couldn't understand. I wasn't in their shoes. I wasn't losing my wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, or friend. I was just the nurse. Trying to help them understand that this was the end. Trying to help the end be as peaceful as possible for her.

I had seen her chart. I knew what she had. I knew what she had been struggling with. I knew that she had made the life-or-death decision to not be resucitated. She had made this decision before she came to the very end. She was very lucid when she made that decision. Did she now regret that decision? Did she understand that this was the end? Did she know how hard it was for her family? Did that matter? Could it matter? Did she want it to be over sooner? Was she tired of fighting?

The family also knew. They knew what she had. They knew, first hand, what she had been struggling with. And they knew she had made the decision to be a DNR patient. They were NOT happy with this decision. They didn't agree with this decision. They wanted us to not honor that decision & do everything possible to keep her from slipping away. Did they know how hard it was for her? Did they know what she was struggling with? Did they know that she could still feel pain and hear them even though she was no longer able to speak? Did they understand that she didn't want to suffer anymore? Didn't they understand that she made this decision; not us?

Do they realize what would become of their wife, mother, friend? What would she be to them on a ventilator, with a feeding tube, with a urinary catheter, unable to control her bowels, unable to speak, unable to eat, unable to express her thoughts, words, feelings, pain, unable to move herself in bed let alone walk.

It is so hard to know that a person is slipping away. As hard as it was, though, I couldn't pull myself away. I couldn't leave. I sat there & watched as she faded away. We gave her meds to help her not feel pain or struggling as she went. There was nothing else we could do. She had dictated that to us. She had decided that after fighting for so long, now was the time to go. It was the end, and there was nothing anyone could do now to change that.

It was surreal. Working in this field, you form opinions. You decide what you will do & what you'll encourage family members to do. You think you have it all decided and then you watch someone linger too long or give up to early and you wonder...

-Me

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