Conversation of Death

I survived my work week!  I work 3 or 4, 12 hr shifts, 7am to 7pm, every week as a RN in an Emergency Room.  I am a charge nurse and usually walk 6 – 8 miles per shift.  One day I did walk 11 miles.

Emotionally, I wasn’t sure how I would handle this work week .  Most coworkers still didn’t know or realize what I had experienced the previous week regarding my skin cancer. I would notice many just looking at me with a questioning look.  Only a few asked me how I was doing and/or feeling.  For those who asked the question, ” what is going on?” I appreciate your asking and then taking the time to listen.

My face was almost healed.  Just a small healing sore below my eye.  The side of my nose was hardly noticeable.  My thigh healing but only hurt when I pulled the healing sutured area the wrong way.  Sitting and then standing up sometimes caused a sharp pull of sutures.  More than once I went into the restroom to be sure I hadn’t ripped out a suture.

My most memorable moment was a cancer patient who arrived by ambulance.  She came to us because she had increasing SOB (shortness of breath).  This SOB started after her doctor inserted a chest tube to drain fluid that was filling her chest.

She was beautiful!  She had a bright smile on her face and very alert eyes as she was rolled thru the ambulance doors entering our ER.  Her sparse hair was only about ½ inch in length.  Grey/white strands of hair that stood straight out. 

  I assigned a room to her in the area where critical and sicker patients are evaluated.  I went into her room to see if I could help her assigned RN.  She was still smiling and the 3 of us started a conversation regarding her and the care she was going to receive from us.

She told us she had been healthy all her life and was diagnosed 5 months ago with stage 4 lung cancer.  She had seen her doctor due to feeling SOB and coughing.  She had never smoked nor had lived with a smoker. 

This woman then spoke of dying.  She wanted us to know she was not angry. She expressed her acceptance of death!  “Feisty” is what she called herself and said that is what keeps her going.  Speaking of a cancer group she attends and spoke of the sadness and defeat most members displayed and spoke of.  She told us when she spoke of her taking her own life she was snubbed and told she had given up.  And she wasn’t going to do any more Chemo since the 1st round left her deathly sick.  She was upset that she allowed the doctor to insert the chest tube. 

Still with that beautiful smile, she looked at me and the other nurse and asked what would be a good way to end her life.  The other nurse and I then looked at each other.  I was wondering what the other nurses view was regarding someone ending their life and she probably was wondering the same about me.  I told her to goggle that question and she would find many sites that would offer suggestions and ideas.  She said she had been saving her pain medicine, Morphine and asked how much would she need to take to cause death.  I told her if she googled end of life she would also read about medications and dosages.  She let us know she understood we couldn’t answer her questions but thanked us for the idea of using her computer to find the answers she needed.  I told her that if and when she decides her life is to end she needs to be sure no one will find her until her body has died.  I explained that if EMS responds and brings her to a ER we will be legally obligated to resuscitate her since suicide is not legal. 

She laughed and told us that she had recently moved to our state, New Mexico.  She had been living in Oregon a state that had a right to die law and thought NM had the same law but quickly found out it did not. 

The other nurse left the room leaving this woman and I to talk.  I pulled up a chair and told her of my recent health issues. We shared our views on life, Birth, Living and Death, all a part of everyone’s life.

 We spent a very short period of time together and you touched me greatly!  I will remember your beautiful smile & eyes and your feisty spirit! I pray you find the answers you are looking for.

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2 thoughts on “Conversation of Death

  1. You are a great nurse and helped this woman in so many ways. She might have been at the ER for her chest tube, but she had more pressing issues on her mind. Thank God you were there for her, took time to listen, and you shared your personal dilemma you are currently struggling with. God Bless Both of You and your families!

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