My entire view of the healthcare field has done a complete 180 degree spin. I’ve always had a drastic fear of death for my loved ones especially in the hands of healthcare professionals. As much as I have always wanted to become a doctor, I have always been rather worried in regard to the quality of care physicians and nursing staff offer to patients. My time at hospice has served as a refresher that my perception of what quality care should be is not some façade but rather a true application of what goes down on that in-patient unit. But my small comments of the quality of care is not something I want this essay to focus on and I’d rather highlight a moment I will carry with me for the rest of my life for the remainder of this piece.
His name was Michael. I didn’t ask for a last name and I didn’t want to check the patient board to figure it out as I felt first name basis was the most personable thing to go on. The nursing staff and the aides could not get a peep out of this man; he was as cold as ice. For some odd reason, he gravitated towards me. We sat down silent at first, no one uttered a sound until he told me, “I’m nervous.” This was the first time I have ever interacted with someone who knew the end was near and I had no idea how to respond. I looked at him and asked if he wanted to talk about it to which he replied, “No.” I thought I did something wrong until I realized that at certain times in life, it is okay to not talk about something. We all find comforts in our own ways and his was through music. So we spoke about that instead.
After around 2 hours of sitting with Mike, he had two visitors walk in. They looked healthy, solid – the complete opposite of the man sitting to my right dying of pancreatic cancer. It was at this moment the biggest shock hit me of them all, “Hi, we’re Mike’s parents. We just came to stop in, sorry for interrupting.” I didn’t know how to handle a mother and father saying goodbye to their child. It has always been my biggest fear in life to lose my child, when the day comes, before I die. This was the moment I knew medicine would serve as the pillar that I would use to try my hardest to ensure this situation that Mike was in would be as rare as possible when I am in control. However, it is very important to consider that I do not believe that death is a failure. Death is not something that can be wagered off forever and at times, it appears that death is the only outlet to a life of pain.
Hospice has instilled the belief in me that we do not have a failing medical practice here in America on the basis of compassion. Our quality of care exemplified on that IPU is something I have never seen before and should serve as the poster of what our medical professionals can do. Hospice has also taught me that death is something to not turn a cold shoulder to. Death is not a failure, rather it is a beginning to something new.