Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today I went into a patients room to help her back to the bed from using the restroom. She wasn't one of my assigned patients, but I knew her because she was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before I started working on the unit, and has been in and out over the past year with treatments, infections, a bone marrow transplant, and finally a relapse. Last time we saw her, she had relapsed, and was not a candidate for the last ditch chemotherapy that we use. She was sent home with hospice, given two weeks to live, and two months later came back to the hospital because she was running a fever, which is a pretty serious situation when dealing with leukemia patients.

I have seen someone pass away. I have seen someone in their very last moments of life. And I have seen death probably more than the average person has dealt with it before. While I am working, I am focused, I have a job to do and my instinct takes over my emotions- I take care of my patients. I get them back to bed, I try to calm them, and ease their breathing. This particular patient was so winded and was struggling so hard to breath just getting up to use the bathroom. She looked me dead in the eyes as I told her 'Relax, take deep breaths, breathe thru your nose so you get the oxygen we put on for you, you're okay, just breathe.' And eventually after a few minutes she calmed down and was breathing easier, along with the help of our friend morphine. And I went about my business.

This is how things typically go for me, I do what I'm trained, and I go about my business- but on the drive home is when I being to think about what I really just encountered. I encountered a woman fighting to live, every breath she took in was effort, and the look in her eyes told me just how exhausted she was from fighting this cancer. When she looked me in the eyes- I was looking at a dying woman...and that never. ever. gets easy.

I sometimes cannot believe the things I deal with at work...and then it hits me on the way home just how real their situation is, to me it is a job that I do three days a week that I love. To them, this is their life. They stay in the hospital for months, it becomes their home, and when the time comes- they turn to us to say 'this is okay, you are okay, no more chemo, no more blood drawn, no more tests...you can rest now.'

How in the world am I, a 23 year old girl, given such great responsibility as to lead people to the next phase of their life...death. And to help them deal, and their families deal with the situation that they face- How in the world? I hope that everytime I take care of one of my patients it affects me like she did today and that I never ever forget how precious life is, how scary cancer is, and how much they go through.

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