I’ve been thinking and haunted isn’t the correct word. Haunted denotes that the memories are unpleasant and something to get rid of
A better phrase is the patients I carry. This is a less negative connotation.
The next patient I carry is a patient whose name I no longer remember. Which is an odd thing to think of.
She was mentally disabled, blind and deaf and lived in a local state hospital. She was near my age in numbers only, her mental age had been gauged to that of an infant. While we were caring for her she couldn’t interact with us. I imagine to her we were just hands out of the darkness. Although we tried to be gentle, how much did she understand?
She was so, so ill. No one knew exactly what was wrong? Just that she kept bleeding. There was no interaction, no this makes me feel bad, why is it happening? She was utterly passive.
She had no family that visited. Ever. But she was a full code.
I remember that all she was able of doing was laying in bed, her eyes closed.
I know that I was in nursing school at this time, so it was in the 90s. I was working as a telemetry tech/CNA in an rural community hospital. I was new to the hospital, new to patients who were less than 60 years old.
One night she arrested. There was a lot of blood. To me there was a lot of confusion. The code was called and the code team responded. I was hovering, waiting to be of assistance. The ED doc snapped at me to begin compressions. Why me, I have no idea. Apparently I took too long to step forward, an ICU nurse, who he may have been barking at, gave me a dirty look and began compressions.
I felt horrible. But I still stayed to be the fetch and carry portion of the code. But she still died.
It was my first code.
It was not a happy code. Are they ever?
After it was all done I was left with the body. I was to clean her and prepare her for the funeral home. I’m not sure if she was a coroner case. Even then I knew that an autopsy had to be done in the person had been in the hospital less than a day. But she’d been there a week.
The local priest came to bless the body. Last rites were of no use to her, as they are done with an alive person who can confess their sins, and receive communion and absolution.
He and I had a much needed conversation about her and about faith’s role in the hospital. He had not known this particular patient but he knew me from church. He asked me to say the rosary for her with him. I told him my rosary was at home, he offered me his own, a wooden well used one, and pulled out a plastic one for himself.
We said the rosary over my patient and he blessed the body. He told me that my presence was one of comfort for the patient, even though she had died. It was good that I cared enough to participate in the rosary for her soul with him.
And then he had to go back to the parish house and I had to go to my other ten patients.
He wouldn’t take his rosary back. I still have it, over twenty years later. The priest has himself died. I hope that the nurse who attended him at the end of his life was a comfort to him.
The lesson is there is room for faith at the hospital, but not as a leading force, but as a comforting one. Regardless of faith, my own or that of a different religion. All people deserve comfort.