Saturday, May 9, 2009

my patients last night

i left work this morning feeling a bit depressed. i got to see both ends of the spectrum. at least, i saw two vastly different life situations that fall onto that spectrum of life's tragedies. each one very different, and yet, both very sad.

one of my patients was elderly. her son has been taking care of her for about 10 years and has the power of attorney to make decisions for her. he has gained medical knowledge along the way. but he has scant knowledge in a vast ocean of possible knowledge. because of that he comes across as quite arrogant scared that his mother is not going to make it out of the hospital this time. and she probably won't. she has several problems, the least of which involve
her lungs (she cannot breathe on her own and hasn't since february),
her heart (she has random bouts of rapid heart rates that last for hours on end..up to160 beats/minute),
her gut (she has a feeding tube in her belly and a colostomy),
her skin (she has a lot of pressure ulcers that go deep to the bone and muscle that will probably never heal) ...
if that wasn't enough, she isn't really there. i mean, she opens her eyes, but she cannot move, speak or even gag. this is not good. but the son cannot let go. at all. it is very sad to watch this woman waste away.
i don't think it is how God intended us to live.
i realize that there are very different opinions on this out there. i am not trying to inflame anyone or point a finger at anyone. i guess i just know that i wouldn't want to be alive like that. not after nearly 80 years of life. i would be tired. i wouldn't want to be stuck in a body that couldn't move. and someone else was responsible for feeding me, bathing me, and wiping me. where i was stuck in a hospital bed without my family around me. i also know that, if i were in the same situation as the son, it might be different. it can be very hard to let go when you think you are doing the right thing and that maybe, just maybe, your loved one might get better. maybe.

the other patient i had was young. had made some very bad choices in his life and so was shackled to the bed. (why they do this to correctional facility patients, i will never know. they cannot go anywhere because they are so sick. why must we torture them and risk injury to their legs .) at 18 he entered the correctional department for some very dangerous criminal acts. he has been there several years already, and it finally caught up with him.
he was attacked in his cell.
he was unconscious and down for an unknown amout of time.
he had a bad bleed on the brain.
it required surgery to relieve the pressure.
he cannot talk, follow commands, or even open his eyes to command.
this seems to be a wasted life. so young, and yet it is already over. his family will hold on to the hope that his brain will recover. that the swelling in his brain will go down and he will be himself again. to go back to prison and finish out his sentence.

i left feeling very sad for these two people who are suffering. some days i don't like my job. some days the black and white blur so grey i can't see beyond it. my only comfort is the knowledge that God is Sovereign and sees each of these people. do they know Jesus? i don't know. but i could whisper it to them as i did their bedbaths. i could show Jesus to their families as i care for them as i would my own family. i can know that God is God, and that only He knows who they really are. that maybe, just maybe, they are children of the King and will see heaven. i can pray that God continues to place empathetic Christians in their path to help them along the way.


Help Meet in the Making said...

I loved this post..I see this happen so many times in my job too. It's never easy to let go of a loved one, but sometimes you just wish the family would realize they are suffering and have hardly any quality of life in the state they are in. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if they had written out their own living will for what they would like to happen to them instead of just have a POA to decide that for them.

I'm assuming you work in ICU..neuro? or what kind?

Giovanna said...

When my husband was in the hospital for the first 4 months with his brain cancer, we saw this first hand as well. I can't count how many times we saw people on the cancer floor die alone and old with out their families. Some died with their families but they had left quite some time before. What always amazed me was that the view point of death was always so different. My husband is a a preacher and we spoke to many people about their salvation while he was in the hospital. Sometimes what amazed me the most was the actual deaths of their loved ones and how it affected the saved and the lost family members. There was always such a peace upon the saved family members and such despair on the lost family members. It was very sad those 4 months.

The hospital we were in had a back section that was for the inmates it took care of , except the cancer floor. They were in with the non-incarcerated patients and were cuffed to their beds as well. Not to mention, each one had an officer outside his room at all times.
Only once did we see a prison inmate patient try to leave during his treatment while his officer went to get something from the back rooms. They got him before he left the hospital and reverted him to the back section because of his mis-behavior.

My heart goes out to you being a nurse. My mother in law is a nurse and I have 3 nurse girl friends. Some of their stories are so sad.