I spent the last days of my clinical nursing career on the palliative care ward. And perhaps had the most emotional experience for some time, well that I can remember.
I thought it was a sad day, the large man lay dying, hurry up they called to me “he’s not comfortable, give him something.’
I looked at his slumped lifeless limp body, just laying there. White against the white sheets, mouth gapped open, so he could breath. Or because he simply couldn’t hold it closed any more? Mucous dribbling down the side of his face. He wasn’t able to say a word. I thought he didn’t look uncomfortable to me.
She must have read my face and mind and said,’really he was just calling out, and he was really uncomfortable.’
I conceded and went once more to give the extra doses of morphine, knowing full well it would be the last. How many last doses have I given? far too many to count, and how many at the request of relatives who think that dying is an easy process. Like the killing that they witness on their television screens. Dying is as if being born, it is a struggle. Not for all but for some, and none of us know how we will die.
Sure enough within an hour he died. The saddest moment to me was that it seemed that no one on the ward cared. The Unit Manager was too busy to put her head in the door and speak to the grieving relatives. The doctor was too busy to pronounce him dead so there was just me, and my nurse friend. We laid him out, made sure the room was cleared of clutter and tried to place a flower in some position to make it seem like we cared. It seemed to me that the humanness had gone from the nursing profession.
I had looked after this man for some time before he became ill. We had spent quite some time chatting about this and that, as I pottered around his room ensuring that he had his medications, his bath and his bed made. He was very appreciative of what ever I did for him, which was really nice for a change. He would often say to me that I was kind to him and I would simply repeat that I am a reflection of you. He liked that and repeated to himself quite often. It was sad to say goodbye, yet again. I am glad that for me the time has come to leave the dying under some one else’s care, for now.