When a patient dies

You might wonder why I put ‘Number of ‘my’ patients that died’ in the random facts in my first post. Being part of the end stages of their lives was a very special experience. I’d like to share a few ‘images’. It’s been a year since I’ve seen real patients but somehow, it’s like it happened just a moment ago.

*

They’d stuck a white A4 paper on the door. There was one word on it: ‘Belet’. I remember not knowing what it meant, so I opened the door and peered inside. There, was my patient, a very kind old woman, whom I’d cared for in the past few days. She was one of the first patients with which I was allowed to work on my own. I don’t know how I realized that she was dead – I don’t remember going in more than a few steps but the atmosphere of the room had changed, something had left.

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He was producing a very scary noise. It sounded like a lawn mower that wouldn”t start, a low rumble. A year later, I’d learn that patients in the terminal stage of life wouldn’t be bothered by it, but at that moment I was terrified, thinking he was suffocating. He was a very big man, with a friendly face. We never got around to any conversation, however, he barely responded and in the night following the shift I worked, he died.

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Dying can be a very lengthy, exhaustive proces. The first part was rather quick – I’d just helped him eat his dinner and all of a sudden, he slumped. I don’t know all the medical details – after all, it was a nursing internship – but the family was called, the patient moved to a different room and the waiting started. We didn’t expect him to last the night – but he did. Another day passed – no change in his condition. He was lying there very relaxed, eyes closed, barely responsive, but still alive. Eventually, he lasted over 14 days. What I remember most clearly is the family: they were absolutely exhausted, completely drained, both physically and emotionally. I think they were eventually happy that they were able to go home, at last.

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(and now I’m wondering – how will these memories survive – now I clearly remember which details I changed and which I didn’t… but eventually, this blog post will be the only reminder of these patients)

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