Monday, April 8, 2013

Family Medicine Activist: End of Life


I grabbed her right hand.  She squeezed it and looked through the breathing mask at me.  "What should I do?"

She is in the ICU, on the highest oxygen setting with a non-rebreather mask to maximize oxygen available.   The first pneumonia seemed defeated, but the emphysematous lungs had no reserve, continuing to worsen with respiratory failure.  She is at the end.  She knows it.  She is exhausted.  Her kidneys, lungs and heart are finishing together.  I know her and her family well.  I'm her Family Physician.

Her husband is gone.  The family has been taking her around to doctors, which has become her primary social life.

Her pleading eyes spoke of a long life, looking toward the hereafter.  She wanted help.  To get peace.

"You've done well with your life.  Your body is saying it has nothing left."  She had already opted against a ventilator.

"I feel bad about leaving them." she gasped as she looked at her family. "I'm ready to see my husband again."

 "They understand.  They know the meaning of your life.  They know your stories."

 "The hospice team can help with your comfort.  Your struggle is almost over.  You've done well.  God bless you"

"Thank you.  You've been a good doctor," she smiled. "He's the first one I could stand," she gasped to her family. "I'm ready to go."

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