Last night I spent my shift keeping a dying man alive. I know, this is what I am paid to do, this is my job and as some people say is my "calling". But when you watch and infection ravage a person in this way and make them nearly unrecognizable to loved ones it becomes hard to see the good that you are doing.
I spent the night asking myself why. Why were we working so hard to keep a person alive when his body was telling us it wanted to do exactly the opposite? His body was shutting down, system by system. Why were we pumping medication into him to keep his heart beating when the medications were just as damaging as the illness that had him here? The pressors needed to keep his blood pressure high enough we starting to have damaging effects on his fingers and toes. Why did we force his lungs to breath with a machine when they had already decided to stop working. If he was able to tell us would he have told us to stop?
At about 3am I got my answer when his family arrived to the unit, arms encircling one another they went into his room. I had tried my best to clean him up and hide the damage the medications and the infection had done to his body by covering him up to his chin in blankets. There were a lot of them, and they surrounded his bed talking softly to one another and touching his face. When the came out the wife came over to speak to us, asking us to not go through life saving efforts when his heart gives out the next time.
She smiled at us and said, "He's heard his trumpet, he's going to see Jesus and I am happy for him. He'll be there waiting for me when it's my turn."
Then she and the family thanked us, all of us for taking such good care of their loved one, for making sure he was there so they see him one last time and say good bye to him. Everyone one of them hugged us as they filed out of the unit to go home and get some rest. And everyone of them smiled through the tears, everyone of them was at peace as they left, knowing that they had one last moment with him.
Last night I learned that sometime we don't always save the lives of our patients, but me make a difference in lives of the people who remain here on Earth.