Monday, December 17, 2007
i can't remember their faces, my patients, after they die or after they are told "the news" that they it isn't going to be long, but i do remember their husbands' faces... sisters' faces ...too-young-of-kids-to-have-their-parents-die faces... the face of the old friend who just stopped by to see how things were moving along. i can't get out of my head the sighs of absolute total loss, the blank look of confusion and 'can someone tell me if this is really happening?' face. the eyes welling up with tears but not wanting to share it with complete strangers called healthcare workers. the wanting to ask questions like 'how long?,' 'what is it going to be like?'... the walking into the patient's room and after 55 years of marriage forgetting how to hold hands or talk to each other. how they solitarily stand in the doorway and watch them like a dream where they can't run fast enough.
like that gray-haired patient's girlfriend who, despite knowing he had terminal lung cancer, thought it would all be okay... only to find he unexpectedly had less than a day projected to live. and they got married. right there. that night in his hospital room. and she laid in bed with him while he coughed up blood. and he did die. i can't remember what he looked like, but i remember her. i remember the overwhelming gut-feeling that this shouldn't be happening.
but it does. all the time.
it makes no sense why i'm still in this field after saying i hate it for the past 5 years. i hate it still. i hate seeing this pain. i hate bringing it home with me. i hate it. but it's life. it's the most real thing happening to that person. and i am experiencing it with them when no one else is there. so i'm beginning to have this love/hate relationship...finally.
i mean i want to be the kind of person who loves people deeply. unconditionally. i can't say i really do. i mean, do you? do we love people without posing conditions on what that means or looks like? when i'm standing in the doorway of the people i love and watch them like it's a dream, will i regret the day before and what we said? or never said? will i be trying to figure out how to make it all better? what will i do when i have no control over the next moment? when it truly is all in God's hands and another dose of epi won't keep them longer?
i see people having the worse day of their life every day. i watch people losing the person they've taken for granted for 55 years and suddenly realize how empty and lonely and unfulfilling their life is going to be now that they're losing them. and they have no control. and they have no idea where to begin.
we have a syndrome called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (wiki it), in which people literally have a temporary broken heart from having a truly broken heart. it mimics all the symptoms, even ekg-wise, of a heart attack. we have patients who have a "heart attack" the same day their husbands died from one.
i hate it. but i can't even begin to describe what i am finally taking home with me each night i work. it's something like love. like letting go of things that really don't matter. there's a lot of things that just really don't matter, too. i bring home sore feet and backs, but readiness to be that person for people instead of waiting for them to be it for me. i bring home headaches, but the mind to dream real dreams and the heart to live for today regardless. i bring home another day of work that sucked, but feel like i finally made a difference and am ready for the next.
but sometimes i'm just really tired and ready to have a week off and could give a shit about all the lessons of life i'm learning. sometimes all i can say is, 'i'm sorry, that just really sucks.'