Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loss at Work

One of the patients I have been working with off and on for the past 7 months died today. She was a very independent woman and chose death over spending the rest of her life in a skilled nursing facility and having dialysis three times a week. While this sounds drastic at first, a lot of the therapists I work with can understand her decision. Maybe this comes with age? I have been having a hard time empathizing with this decision as it's hard for me to understand why one wouldn't fight until the end.

Despite my inability to understand this life ending decision, I worked with her right up until a few days before the end. I didn't want her to feel like I had given up with her, even though she had given up herself. I even was able to help her complete one of her personal goals before she was too weak, which gave me one of the biggest senses of accomplishment and pride in my job that I've had since I've been working.

When I first started working I lost a patient about two weeks after I started, so I hadn't been working with that person very long. At that point in time death was still a little foreign and scary. Since then I've become a lot more comfortable with the end of life process, but this death has hit me a little bit harder than the rest. After working together so long, having this person go home to live independently after a very severe disability, and then having them come back and giving up has difficult to process.

While I don't believe in heaven and hell, I'm relieved that she is no longer suffering. Hopefully I won't have to experience another death like this at work for quite some time.


  1. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have death be a part of my career. I think it's great you kept working with her despite her decision. I'm sure it must be hard to spend so much of your education or career finding ways to cure people or help deter illness or find ways for people to live an easier life with an illness only for some people to be uninterested in prolonging their own life.

  2. Wow. Your are a very strong and inspiring woman!

    I guess I can understand this persons choice, but can't imagine making it myself. Sorry you are having a tougher time handling it...I am sure that never completely goes away no matter who you are. Call if you need someone to talk to.

  3. It is very sad when someone chooses to give up on their life. It's hard to imagine getting to a point of total hopelessness like that. You should feel good knowing that you did something to make her life better. Life is short and we should all make the most of it.