Chronic Target Practice
Karnjit Sarai ~
Scott Janssen ~
"You need to get here now!" The nurse whispers anxiously. It's after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.
"Has the funeral home been called?" I ask.
"Does he have a gun or weapon?"
"We're out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall."
I try not to stereotype, but deer heads are a giveaway. There are probably lots of guns.
Allie Gips ~
Winter in New England and
night replaces afternoon, darkness wraps the streets while we are all still inside.
There are no windows in the Emergency Department anyway
except of course the window into this city--the stream of women with bruised arms
and orbits that they will not explain, the revolving door of opiate addicts
nodding off, crying out, praying for forgiveness, the chronic-pain patients who rip
apart all of your idealism and ambition, trade it in for a one-time hit of oxy.
Sara Bybee ~
It's 2:02 pm when my pager beeps. I pull it out and read: "Juan may have just passed. Going in now."
As a social worker in the region's only cancer specialty hospital, I provide emotional support for patients and their families--including talking about their wishes for end-of-life care.
Juan is a sixty-five-year-old Ecuadorian man with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I've known him for about a year. Polite and easy to talk to, he often listens to Spanish sermons as he walks through the halls, IV pole at his side.
Over the months, we've grown close. He's told me about his life in Ecuador, his first job (delivering pizza) and how proud he is of his children. I've met his wife, Yolanda, and their daughters, Diana and Maria.
Recently, as Juan's cancer progressed, he told me that if he stopped breathing, he didn't want to be intubated or resuscitated.