Monday, June 8, 2015

The Empty Chair

            The old man that I sat with a few days ago has passed away. Indeed, his chair is now empty. He had a stroke several months ago and has had bouts of respiratory problems. He has developed pneumonia and episodes when his lungs would fill with fluid. He would retain fluid and his legs would swell and seep serum. His heart and lungs couldn't handle the small amounts of fluids that he took in.
            Visiting nurses changed is catheter and got a diuretic ordered, but the kidneys failed to cooperate and get rid of the fluid backlog. A young friend of the family was watching him when he breathed his last. It must have been difficult for him. We all knew that the end would come eventually, but it would have been hard for it to happen under your watch.

            As a nurse, I rarely cared for it to happen on my shift that a person would die. There were a few exceptions to that. I cared for people who struggled for so long in pain or who had difficulty with breathing. Each breath was a labor.

            The last few days on Earth were like that for my dad. He was unable to communicate and each breath was a struggle. We decided to put him on hospice, to keep him as comfortable as possible and to allow him to pass away when the time came. It was easier to allow him to die than to sit at his side to watch him struggle with each shallow lungful of air.
            His breathing slowed, sometimes I thought it was his last and yet he would take another gasp and stay with us. Finally, the breaths became more and more shallow, until he sighed and passed away. His mortal coil remained for us to grieve over, but his soul was free to join my mom. He had been missing her for so long. He wanted to be with her. It was selfish to have wished him to stay, when he was so ill and wanted to be with mom. Death can be a blessing. Dad was saved and we knew that he was safe and well in Heaven.

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