The reason I’m asking is that over the last few weeks, Patient Advocate and Author, Martine Ehrenclou and I have launched a new blog duet, called Real Stories From the Streets of Healthcare and our first topic we discussed was entitled “Time for an End-of-Life Conversation?”. We had many skype and email conversations as we took turns contributing to a dialogue about the topic that we knew would eventually become public. And for good reason, as hard as it is to talk about, holding conversations between healthcare professionals and patient advocates seems vital.
Anyways, I shared some nursing stories with Martine and she shared some of her experiences with her Mother, GodMother, and Uncle that involved so much suffering. Over the course of our conversations and shortly after, I began to remember different patients and their deaths and wondered if we talk about ‘it’ enough and if maybe we talked about it more we could become more comfortable talking about ‘it’? And if not more comfortable, maybe ready?
So, I’d like to know what you remember and would share about your first patient death, (honoring HIPPA and overall privacy of course).
For me, I remember a woman in her 30s who had advanced breast cancer. She had internal and external metastasis and was on a med-surg floor at a large teaching hospital where I was in my first year as an RN. She was on oxygen and morphine and was in and out of a confused consciousness. She was restless and her parents had just spent some time with her. My supervisor and I got her up into a geri-chair thinking she’d be able to breath better. We talked about restraining her and decided against it. (Back then it was an option, but we felt that it would restrict her breathing even more). Back out in the hallway at the med cart I heard a crash. I ran in and she had tried, it seemed, to stand up but fell and hit her head on the TV in the room. She was gone. My supervisor came running in. I remember her telling me that she thought she had died before she hit the floor because there was so little blood. That moment of hearing the crash and an intuitive knowing have stayed with me. I took the next day off and my supervisor called me at home. I was kind of shaken up and I still appreciate that she made contact with me, but I’m not sure I even knew how traumatic this was. I haven’t talked about it over the years. Sigh. It is part of our job and yet it does feel good to share the experience with you.
Thanks for reading.
This post is part of a nurse blog carnival dedicated to the topic of “End-of-Life”.