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Patient and Friend

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 I am a respiratory therapist. My profession means I deal with a lot of critically ill patients. I see death, I am a part of it. 

2 weeks ago I had the opportunity to take care of a female patient. She had Hodgkin's lymphoma.  She was in the hospital for two weeks prior to her coming under my care. 

I met her in a regular room, she was breathing hard. I was called to put her on BiPAP, after an hour I helped transfer her to the ICU. She was on the breathing machine for 24 hours a day for almost 2 weeks. She slowly improved. We were able to wean her, till she no longer needed the BiPAP, she still had oxygen suppert though.

Throughout her stay in the ICU, we became friends. We would chat a little, too much talking would tire her. I would assure her that she was gonna be okay, she would be back with her family soon. She  was probably my best patient. Always so polite and grateful.

I talked to her last on the morning of June 22nd, at the end of my night shift, I went to the ICU to say good bye to her. My next shift was on June 23rd, 2pm. I was so shocked to find out that she had been intubated and is not doing well. I went to the ICU to see her, it was not a good sight. She was unresponsive, I held her hand and talked to her. I made sure her ventilator was properly set, that  everything was in order.  Still I reassured her that she was gonna pull through. I spent my shift worrying about her, I saw no improvement. My shift ended at 11pm. 

After an hour at home I get a call from my workmate on night shift. She told me that my patient's heart has stopped beating and they tried to resuscitate her but they couldn't. It was 12:45am on June 24th, she was just 30 years old.

I cried and cried till it was time for my shift again the next day.

5 years in practice and I never let myself get too attached to patients for this exact reason. The one time I let my guard down, I end up so hurt. I have cared for countless of patients, pumped numerous hearts while silently willing for them to live. I have seen a lot of deaths but this one hit me hard like I have never experienced before. My heart still sinks to my stomach when I think of her, it's hard being alone. I feel guilty about all the assurances that I made.  And recently with Covid19, I have seen more deaths in a span of 3 months compared to my years of experience, it's too much. 

I worte this hoping someone could help me how they got over a patient's death.

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You helped me by showing me  the other side, I just  lost my uncle in hospital to covid and he was  in hospital for quite a few weeks and the medical staff really bonded with him and really cared.  Reading your post shows me how many caring  medical  staff there are, and shows me how much they  care, and you are clearly particularly special, with so  much compassion.  That care you showed would clearly have made so much difference to that young lady, she must have taken so much comfort knowing you cared and even though she  didn't  make it, the hope you gave  her would have carried her through and helped her cope with those last weeks. 

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I am so sorry for your loss Jtc. I cannot imagine the pain you are in now. I see Covid patients alone on their last moments and their families crying outside wishing they are with their loved ones. This disease is so hard for everyone involved. Thank you for your reply. I have been waiting for answers to help me with the pain. Your commect helped me see that there is something good in what I do.

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Valerie Lockhart

Dear theRTRP

I appreciate the compassionate care that you showed to this patient. My mother had a nurse that was like you and would sit and talk to her. I was able to take worry-free breaks from her bedside, knowing that this one particular nurse was there. More nurses like yourself are needed, so please do not change your disposition. One way to cope is to look beyond any debilitating or disfiguring effects of the illness and see the person. If the patient has a picture of themselves with their family, try to picture her as a healthy individual. Comfort comes not only from our words but also from our attitude. Pulling up a chair and sitting down, drawing near and offering our hand, not holding back our tears when they reveal what they are feeling—all of this shows that we care. Another way to cope is to imagine a time in the future when those in the grave will be brought back to life here on earth! The Bible repeatedly speaks of such a time. Describing what conditions on earth will then be like, the Bible states that God “will wipe out every tear from [our] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”— Revelation 21:3,4. Please continue to provide compassionate care to each and every patient. Your contribution will make someone's last days more enjoyable, and they'll thank you in the future. 

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