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Tag: end of life decision making

Consult

Daniel Becker

Once the tube is out it takes her a minute to turn blue and relax. Another minute to lose her pulse. I learned as a student to feel the difference between the pulse in my fingers and the pulse at the patient’s wrist. Or thought I learned. When you listen for a heart to stop you start to hear heart sounds that might not be there. Like waking up at night thinking you

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Saving Grampa

Alia Moore

You were supposed to die of cardiac arrest as you circled toward home plate. Or of a brain aneurysm in the summer during one of your countless hikes through the mountains.

You weren’t supposed to die here. Not in a hospital bed, inhabiting this fragile new body, with an oxygen tube in your nose and tumors in your lungs.

Two days before you left us, I traveled home to visit you. I’d last

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The Couple Next Door

Kelly McCutcheon Adams

In 2005, my husband and I bought a small farmhouse in northern New England next door to Tom and Sally.

They were in their early seventies, married nearly fifty years, with a large family. Tom’s grandfather had built a farmhouse in 1900 on the family’s small pig farm. In the 1970s, Tom and Sally had parceled off the land and built a modern house for themselves, a stone’s throw from the old

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Eleventh Hour

K.D. Hayes

Uncle Walt died this morning. Finally.

 I say “finally” because I believed this day would come four months ago, when he had emergency bypass surgery.

At the time, I didn’t believe Walt would live; he was an ailing, seventy-seven-year-old man with severe pulmonary disease. When his heart started to hurt one Friday, his doctors told him, “With bypass surgery, you might live. Without it, you’ll be dead before the weekend is over.”

Walt’s

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Return of the Hero

Peg Ackerman

Blanched by anemia, Mary rested quietly in the hospital bed. Her pallor made her barely visible amid the bleached bed linens–she seemed a mere shock of white hair against the pillowcase. 

Age ninety-three, she’d visited the hospital a half-dozen times in as many months, shuttling between nursing home and hospital as many elders unwittingly do in their last year of life. She may have preferred to stay put, but no one knew for sure:

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Note to My Patient

Sarah Stumbar

You might be surprised to know that I’m lying here in bed still thinking of you two weeks after you’ve died.

During the month that I watched you die, I often wondered what it felt like to be you, with your deep, husky voice, rounded belly and stubborn anger. You’d once owned your own mechanic shop; now you were sitting here in a hospital bed, staring up at the medical team as we

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Code Blue

Stephen W. Leslie

I was startled awake at 3:40 am by a loudspeaker blaring “Code Blue…Code Blue.” 

As the hospital’s newly hired chaplain intern, I’d been sleeping in the overnight room. Stumbling out of bed and groggily changing out of my pajamas, I made sure to put on my hospital badge. 

I made my way to the hospital’s “Z” building, where the ICU was located, and took the elevator to the fourth floor. The elevator

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What About Bob?

Joseph Fennelly

The time: early one morning, thirty years ago.

The place: my local hospital.

At this point, I have been an internist for twenty years. I’ve just entered the cardiac care unit, where my patient Bob, a ninety-five-year-old man with advanced senility, has been brought because he’s having chest pain. 

As I step through the door, Bob codes.

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Cold Comfort

Mary T. Shannon

Leaning against the hospital bed’s cold metal rails, I gazed down at my husband lying flat on his back. Under the harsh fluorescent ceiling lights, his olive skin looked almost as pale as mine. 

We’d been in the outpatient unit since 6:00 am for what was supposedly a simple procedure–a right-heart catheterization to assess the blood

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Out of This World

Katelyn Mohrbacher

When I met Jasper, I was a third-year medical student doing a nine-month rural clerkship, and he was an eighty-year-old man in a coma.

Family members surrounded Jasper–a tall, broad-shouldered man–as he lay in the hospital bed. His wife, Esther, a petite, lively woman also in her eighties, stood by his head, grasping the bed rail. At the foot of the bed stood their son, a middle-aged man with a baseball cap on

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Fifty Minutes

Elizabeth Tyson-Smith

“I know it will kill me,” my patient Jan says calmly. 

We sit in my office looking out on the river below, which glints in the fall sunshine. It is a warm day for November. Jan has just learned that her breast cancer has spread to more internal organs. 

Her doctors have told her that she will

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Heroic Measures

Gil Beall

“Doctor! Doctor! He’s stopped breathing!” the stout woman shouted, clutching at my white coat. 

It was 1953, and I was a first-year resident responsible that night for the patients on the medical ward–including those in the four-bed room the woman pushed me into. 

There I saw a melee taking place around a seventy-year-old man with chronic lung disease. 

The man had been examined and admitted that evening by my colleague, who’d given me

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