Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who's gonna watch you die?


For a non-believer in things such an all-powerful god or magical make-believe places you go when you die, death is a perplexing concept to me.

When I'm standing in the back of the ICU room of a patient recently given the designation of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)/ Comfort Measures Only (CMO), with the monitors facing the opposite of the families, and anxiously waiting for the ECG rhythm to go asystole so I can print a strip for time of death, I'm more than likely in another world. Besides the fact that I am trying to emotionally distance myself from the situation for fear that I will go sit next to the sobbing family member holding their dying loved one's hand and break down with 'em, I am also questioning everything about life. Everything is just so...fleeting. And when the patient finally passes, and the times comes to remove all of the lines, tubes, and dressings, I just look at the lifeless person and wonder, "Where ARE they? Where did they go!?" You almost expect them to blink or move at any moment, but they do not.

And I find it hard to not cry. There is a fine line between being professional and also being a caring professional nurse and providing families with adequate comfort/grief. I don't want to cry in front of them, yet I don't want to seem...cold? Deep down, I'm thinking, "fuck, this sucks." Honestly.


... it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst ...
And then I remember ... to relax, and not try to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. Don't worry ... you will someday.
Another tidbit: last week when one of my patient's died, just moments later, the lullaby music played on the overhead indicating that a baby was born. I immediately sung in the my head, "And babies are born in the same buildings where people go to pass away..."

I was browsing you tube videos to try and find a video about ICU nurses to give an accurate image of what I do at my job. I happened to come across this instead. I don't know the song, personally, but the video is well-done. For someone who has actually watched the monitor as someone dies, I find the music to be a good interpretation.

I also love this story done by CBS a few months ago about the cost of dying:


Made a lovely chocolate cake today. Enjoyed it warmed with moose-tracks ice cream:)

Sorry, I'm feeling a bit emo at the moment...:)


Susan said...

We get many, many hospice patients on my floor since we're the designated hospice floor. I had a couple patients die on my watch, and I often thing I should feel MORE because I don't think much of it. I feel bad for the family, but most of the patients are oldddd (not that it makes it any better, but losing a 46 year old mom was hard...). And they're ready for it. And we know it's coming. It's not like a sudden code on someone who should be living and breathing. I'm not attached to the patients because I usually only have them for a day or two and often the family isn't even there! That's more of what I feel bad about. It's a hard thing to deal with though and I've thought about it...especially when another patient is like "OMG YOU TOOK TEN MINUTES TO GET ME WATER." Really, calm down, the guy next door is dying. Except you can't say that...

RN Moxie said...

I work in oncology and hospice so I am around death all the time. From young to old. Bad circumstances to the natural dying in your sleep kind.

And I suppose for some people it's very depressing to work with patients or in care areas that don't have high success rates, but I have come to appreciate the circle of life that the hospital presents to me.

At the very least it's made me truly appreciate the life I get to live and the role we play as nurses in end of life care. Sometimes people go out swinging, sometimes people (and families) can't accept reality and sometimes people are just ready to go.

The dichotomy is crazy sometimes, and the work is hard. But you're making a difference, whether you know or the patients/families know it. 8-)