Thursday, March 10, 2011

"tender mercies"

Today my patient passed away. She was very sick and had a poor prognosis. To keep treating her would have only prolonged suffering. But stopping treatment is always unsettling for me. Just the fact that I have some kind of responsibility in the death leaves me with a lump in my throat. 
However, today I felt like the Lord sent some "tender mercies" to help.
First of all, she was a wonderful woman. Raised a few beautiful daughters. Then when one of the daughters passed away, she raised her 2 orphaned grand-daughters. According to her sisters, she was the one always helping their mom when she was sick. She had a sweet disposition. Each member of her family knew she loved them.
Second, our chaplain was there. She carried the family (and me!) through the day with her calm and reassuring words.
Third, she was comfortable the whole time. Granted, she was getting dilaudid every hour. But she didn't get that agonizing breathing or the anxious look. The family commented more than once on how little pain they saw in her.
And finally, the look on her face in the end. It sounds cheesy, maybe even morbid. But her face was the calmest I've ever seen someone so soon after passing, almost a smile--eyes and mouth closed. She was beautiful, honestly. I might be linking emotions/spirituality with work too much again, but I felt like her peaceful expression was the Lord's way of letting me know she was happy and the right thing had been done.

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