It was a Sunday evening – I had just started my last 12 hour night shift of the week.
I knocked on the open door – a quick tap with two fingers as I entered.
Mrs Farley* was laying on her hospital bed, as always; grossly swollen and dripping wet. She was severely edemic – her body holding on to too much fluid. Unable to store or process the fluid further, it had started to seep out of her skin at a constant rate.
“How you doing, Mrs Farley?” I asked. I knew full well she was miserable, but I attempted to keep a sunny demeanor regardless.
Her incessant low pitched groaning she tended to do stopped as she looked at me and with as much of a smile as she could muster, she answered that she was glad that I was back on shift.
Then, embarrassed, she asked me to check if she had soiled herself. She had lost all sensation when it came to such things – thus the need to layer chux pads underneath her.
I put on my gloves after gathering the other supplies I’d need, and went about the business of rolling her to her side and checking her pads.
“Yup, needs changing,” I said in a chipper voice. “Just hold tight a minute while I clean you up!”
“I am so embarrassed,” she said; her voice cracking with imminent tears. “I’m so sorry,” she added.
I told her there was no need to apologise. “It’s my job, Mrs Farley! You’re just giving me something to do!” I smiled at her and asked her if she would rather I’d be bored at work.
I finished cleaning her up and checking her vitals, then asked her if she needed anything else before I left.
“Sit with me a minute?” she asked hopefully. “Hold my hand and sit with me?”
“Certainly,” I said. “I can spare a few minutes.”
I set my stuff down and moved the chair a little closer to the bed on her left side. I put my hand in hers and sat quietly with her.
After a few minutes, her eyes glazed over and stared off at an angle while she squeezed my hand tighter.
“Mama,” she said faintly before starting to cry. “Mommy, I don’t want to die,” she said further, shaking her head like a petulant child. I squeezed her hand all the more tightly, but stayed silent.
“Mommy… Please… I don’t want to die yet,” she begged.
I shushed her and stroked her hand with my fingers until she quieted down and closed her eyes.
When I walked back out into the brightly lit hall I approached her RN saying soberly “Mrs Farley is going to die soon.” I then told her what had just occurred. “I’d be surprised if she’s still here next weekend when we get back on shift.” The RN agreed.
Truth be told, I was surprised every time she was still there for the past few weeks.
The next Friday night when I came back on to work, I looked up at the board that noted the patient rooms and names along with staff assignments – as I always did.
Mrs Farley’s name was gone.
I was told that she had finally been sent to hospice care after having been with us for about 2 months… and within that week she had, in fact, died.
This has been #2 of my medical-related memories pending my decision about what to do as I plan to go back to University… 😉