Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Ultimate Upgrade

This appears to be a very clean and tidy hospital room, ready for the next patient to fill its bed and utilize its healing equipment. I happened to come across it in the early morning hours on my way to see a patient assigned to my service, a patient who had occupied this bed less than 24 hours earlier.

The Morning After

I knew from the previous day that my patient was struggling to survive his declining medical condition and that it would only be a matter of time before his body decompensated. It just didn't occur to me that this particular morning would be the one I found his room void of active recovery. I was rather surprised when I passed the door mentally preparing myself to review his chart for daily rounds. This was not a novel experience for me, yet it was reason for pause in reflection of a life ended, that taught me in during his struggle to survive. Despite the frequency with which this happens, it resonates as a moment of appreciation for the health that I currently possess.

In medicine, we grapple to preserve life and health. Death is not failure in that equation, yet it is the antithesis of our goal. In fact, it may be the expectant end to the story, but our attempts at prolonging its arrival are the reason we prepare for years to work in healthcare. Sadly, it is something we have to accept as an outcome and become comfortable with despite our best efforts to thwart its occurrence. It happens and the morning I stopped in to see my patient, I could not think of a better scene than his empty bed with the light of the sun filling the corners of his room. It was serenely peaceful and appropriate. 

Question of the Week
An elderly woman, diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, is very combative with hospital staff, refusing treatment except from her own family physician. Which of the following stages of death is she most likely experiencing?

A. Denial
B. Anger
C. Bargaining
D. Depression
E. Acceptance

Answer & Explanation

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