Today, another patient died on my shift. Death is not new to us nurses, but every time someone dies, a tint of sadness somehow marks your heart. In my profession, we call it “toxic” moments, but I call it “time of giving up”. When someone gives up, I thank God, not because it would mean the end of our toxic moment but I thank God because someone’s suffering has ended and I envy him somehow cause he is finally gonna meet his Maker, not that I want to die soon, its just that I have always believed that meeting your Maker means the end of all your struggles and suffering in your life.
Yes, a patient’s death is not uncommon to us, but this particular patients death is different, he did not give up, his family did.. Because they were primed that the patient was in coma and that it’s the ventilator that’s keeping him alive, they have decided to stop it and wait for his heart to stop beating. For his family, it was for the best cause they thought the ventilator was just prolonging the patient’s agony.
When the ventilator was turned off as directed by the family in the NHM form ( No Heroic Measures form)I sort of felt that the patient did not want to give up yet, or maybe was undecided to let go or hang on.. His heartbeat started to slowdown, until the cardiac monitor displayed a flat line.. I thought that was it he finally gave up, so be it, but then his heartbeat came back…He was not ready to go yet, maybe he did not want to leave his family yet, I thought. It became a cycle for 30 minutes, would you believe it, with no emergency drug given to him, his heart stopped and just when they thought he was already gone, his heart came beating back. Until finally, his body gave up and then he was really gone.
In this world, we have to make choices. Most of the time we decide for our selves, but there are just times when someone has to decide for us. In the case of my patient, his family had decided to finally let him go. It was their prerogative. Even if it was the opposite of what I believe in, I just have to accept the fact that people’s decisions cant always be the same and as a nurse I have to respect their call.