A Moment with Family
At the start of a 12-hour shift, I received report on a patient I had grown fond of over the past few months. Unlike previous encounters, this day was different. As a result of her pulmonary hypertension and other comorbidities, palliative care was required for her declining health.
As my shift continued, her blood pressure fell and her heart rate rose. At the bedside, the physician explained to her husband it would be a good time to contact family. The patient’s family arrived including her son, daughter and newborn grandson. I watched my patient hold her grandson with the help of her daughter. It was moving to see her family together. Surrounded by loved ones, my patient took her final breath.
The family was in tears as I expressed my condolences. The patient’s son screamed with anger and punched a hole in the wall. Everyone grieves differently, and I, too, struggled to find the right words. The husband looked at me and said, “What am I supposed to do now? She was my whole life. I can’t just leave her like this.” His words brought me to tears and I had no idea how to respond. As a nurse, his wife was the first patient of mine to pass away. As I began to cry, I hugged him and told him how important family was to his wife and how grateful she must have been to have had her family by her side.
After gathering her belongings, her husband and I sat on the bed in silence. He looked at me and said, “You showed me something today not many nurses have anymore: compassion and empathy. I appreciate you caring for my wife and want to thank you.”
It is a privilege to touch a life and humbling to be appreciated no matter the action.
Olivia M. Koch, BSN, RN, is a registered nurse who is currently working at University Hospital's Cleveland Medical Center on a Cardiology unit. Olivia is a graduate of Ursuline College with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.