Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Night In The E.R.

I cried. I silently wept as I heard the news. News that had nothing to do with me or my family. Thanks to this peculiar human trait called empathy, I cried when I overheard the doctor tell a family that their loved one would not survive the night. The doctor suggested that they take turns saying their good-byes. As I checked on my mom, I saw them file in to the exam room one-by-one and walk out in silence.

What it must be like to be that doctor. I would be a blubbering mess if I had to deliver news like that with any regularity. Do they suppress their empathy? Did they ever have it to begin with? There must be some defense mechanism that protects them fr0m the sadness they see everyday. Maybe it is balanced by good news. My sister is a pediatrician who handles emergency room cases. She said that, until our mother got sick, she didn't realize how cold she had been to worried parents. One of my aunts is a radiation oncologist. She cries when she talks about her patients who didn't make it and I am sure that's what makes her such a loving and caring doctor.

We were lucky to have mom healthy and energetic for turkey day to share it with our closest friends and family members. By Friday morning, however, her condition deteriorated. I called home to find her semi-lucid and slurring her speech. Perhaps she took too much morphine, but something didn't seem right. I went over there, got her dressed and headed to the E.R. By the time we arrived, she was hallucinating.

Labs were normal, x-ray was normal. CT scan of the brain showed the possibility that she had mini strokes. The doctor told us that, in her condition, any one of many things could set in. A big stroke, a seizure, heart failure, etc. He offered to keep her overnight for observation but said there would be little they can do if any of these things happen. My father, my sister and I agonized over the decision. Out of their earshot, I asked the doctor bluntly, "essentially, are we choosing between her dying here or dying at home"? "Yes", he responded.

I made the decision. The doctor discharged my mom from the hospital and sent us home with a smile of sadness, as if he could see through a crystal ball things he knew he should not say. It is hard to sleep, wondering if she will be with us in the morning, wanting to make sure everything is okay. I cry for my mom as I see her suffer. I cry for my father, wondering how he will handle the loss of his wife of over 30 years. I don't know if I even cry for my own loss. Thanks to this peculiar human trait called empathy, I cry enough for everyone else.

17 Comments:

At 9:33 AM, November 27, 2005 , Blogger mrsleep said...

II.

I pray that you find solace and strength in your family.

 
At 3:55 PM, November 27, 2005 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Hey II,

I cried when I read this; be strong. There's some nice people in New York keeping you in their thoughts.

:-), StS

 
At 6:40 PM, November 27, 2005 , Blogger jj said...

I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. You made the right decision no question.

 
At 10:15 PM, November 27, 2005 , Blogger chad said...

Hey Insurgent,
You know this post hits close to home for me. I see death all the time from that professional distance that's just far enough away to keep me from shedding tears publicly. Amazingly, it gives me no increased ability to cope with the personal losses in my life.
My prayers are with you as you continue to face this difficult time.
Yours in empathy,
chad

"A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary."
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 
At 11:34 PM, November 27, 2005 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Dina,

I had a very heavy heart when I read this post. I remember when I received the news from my Mom that my Dad had died. I felt so guilty that I had not been there...still do feel guilty. He had survived cancer 7 years prior and received a clean bill of health, and so instead of flying 1500 miles to his side everytime there was a turn for the worse, I was sure he would beat it again. I refused to accept the enevidable. My Mom, bless her heart, consoled me by saying that in the last couple of weeks, he hardly recognized anyone. He had a brain tumor.

You will see her again, of this I am sure.

My prayers are with you also.

Your friend,

Gary.

 
At 10:19 AM, November 28, 2005 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

II,

My prayers are with you at this time. All I can say is tell your mother you love her as much as you can. Comfort her as she makes her transition and take solace in the fact that soon she will not be in pain any more.


J

 
At 2:57 PM, November 28, 2005 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

11 28 05

II: Sorry to hear about these issues. I am really sorry to hear about your mother's ill health. We will all pray for your family to have the strength to get through this time and will be praying for you and hope that you experienced catharsis from writing this out. Take Care and think about the positive affect your mother has had on your life. Until then, I am sending some positive energy your way:)

 
At 8:40 AM, November 29, 2005 , Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

My mother too is moribund. I've spent nights in emergency rooms too and I'm still waiting for the inevitable.

No matter who we are, we all live this same life, don't we? It's empathy alone that makes us human.

 
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