I am not God. I am a nurse. However sometimes people think we are Gods and ask us impossible questions like ‘will I get better?’ ‘Can he be discharged today?’ ‘But, will her blood results turn out ok?’
I know people are shit scared and they are clinging to solace wherever they can find it. They want answers from the people who they believe to be in control.
But that is where the deception lies. We are not the ones in control. We have so very little control. Ultimately, when it comes to life or death, none at all. 
The worst question of all is not ‘is my loved one going to die?’ But ‘when is my loved one going to die?’
How can I answer that? I try to tell people that in all honesty there is no real way of knowing, but generally speaking they will be very insistent and almost aggressively demand a number of weeks, days, hours. 
Today I feel so very bad. So awful. Just thinking about this little episode gives me a lump in my throat and a burning sensation in my eyes.
The patient in question was terminally ill and took a turn for the worse. His relative approached me, concerned:
Relative: do you think he will die?
Me: I’m sorry dear, but I do think it’s imminent, to be entirely honest.

Relative: when? How long does he have?

Me: *I held his hands in mine* dear, I really don’t know.

Relative: but surely from your experience you can have a little idea…

Me: well…

I looked at the patient. He was awake but unresponsive. He wasn’t gasping. So I made a judgement call.
Me: remember I am no prophet, however he is not gasping and relatively stable. I think he will survive two days…
Relative: really? Thank-you nurse, thank-you.

I left the room.
Five minutes later, a carer called me and informed me that the patient had died.
I was in shock. I can’t believe I had got it so wrong. The relative was still there. One minute he was alive, the next dead.
And I feel so, so, so bad. I was so mistaken. I can’t believe that such a thing happened. I am so shaken. And I feel so very sorry. 
I went through the motions of preparing the patient for the morgue. But I was shaking and I felt like crying. I still feel like crying. 
Maybe it’s a lesson to me. I should have said nothing. But sometimes situations are impossible and even the most put-together person may not know what to say and what to do.
I know eventually this feeling will pass. But there will be a mark on my heart for a while. And one in my head for even longer.

 

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