Sunday, December 13, 2009


This week my patient died. She was 76 years old. Chinese lady. Brought in because of a UTI and found to be in respiratory distress. I met her, tubes down her throat, respirator injecting air into her lungs every 3 seconds, unconscious. Unaware of her present state - her inability to breathe on her own, her incontinence and the massive swelling all over her tiny body. She was oozing fluid as she was most likely protein deficient and had developed edema as a result. The fact that she was on normal saline did nothing to ease this either. She died at night. I wasn't there, but I can't help but wonder the cause of her death. Could it have been pulmonary edema? She was edematous in all other places, why not the lungs too? Coming to work the next day and hearing that she had expired left me somewhat dejected for the rest of the day. Of the four days she had been in the hospital, no family members had ever come to visit. She died alone, cold, swollen on a hospital bed. Who knew the fulfilling life she once lived?! I said a prayer. That in passing on, she be blessed.

In contrast, the next day, another patient passed. This Chinese lady was surrounded by family even before her passing. They took shifts so she was always in the company of a dear family member throughout the day. When we rounded, her granddaughter was there. She could not be more than 22 years old. She flew in from Europe to be at her ailing grandmother's bedside. The day she died, There were at least 15 people in that room, solemn and red-eyed. They had expected it and had made peace with what transpired. Even in this sad moment they chose to thank us, the medical staff, profusely for taking care of their grandmother, mother, sister. She died, not connected to a web of tubes and IV lines, but rather, on the last of her own natural breath.

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