Thursday, January 29, 2009

Go in Peace

A typical stay on my unit in the hospital can last from a week or two to a few months. Rarely do we get patients who stay with us for more than that. Naturally, the longer a patient is with us, the more we all (nurses, doctors, social workers, etc.) bond with the family. 

One might imagine that the main purpose of ICU interventions is to do everything possible to save lives. That is true to a certain extent, but an equally important role of the ICU medical team is to decide when there is no longer anything that can be done to improve a patient's health, and to help the family through the difficult decisions and experiences that follow. Usually, this happens in a predictable way: families have been kept up-to-date on the patients' progress, and are not surprised when the medical team comes to them with a discussion about end-of-life issues. But there are some times when family members are not on the same page as the medical team... and some times when family members are not on the same page as each other. In those cases, it is our job as a team to help families get to a place where they are able to let their dying family members go. 

Today, after months of medical updates, ethics consults, and intense conversations, we managed to get two family members who were not on the same page about how to care for a patient to agree on how to move forward. And though I think many of us on the medical team (and some family members) felt great relief to know that the family and the medical team were finally in agreement about what was best for this patient, there was also a great feeling of sadness to realize what that meant. 

There are many sobering moments in my line of work, but none so sobering as when we see families make the selfless decision to let go of a loved one who is suffering. The "easy" choice is to keep a loved on alive at all costs. It is much more difficult to recognize when the pain and suffering felt by a person being kept alive by artificial means outweighs the pain and suffering that the surviving family members will be left with after that person's death.  

These next few days will not be easy. For the first time in this job, I have offered to come into work over the weekend if I am needed. I do not pretend for a moment that this family with whom I have spent at least an hour every working day for the past few months will go quietly from my mind after their loved one has died. They have become a part of my daily routine, and I can already imagine the tug I'll feel at my heart when I walk by their room and it is empty or occupied by a new patient. But as I came to accept long before the family, this patient is ready to go, and will find peace soon in a way that was never found in this lifetime. 

Go in peace, sweet one. Go in peace.

Thank You,

Those folks over there at are looking out for me!

Monday, January 26, 2009


I'm not one for new year's resolutions usually. I can never think of anything good and am not all that interested in keeping whatever resolutions I have attempted to make... usually. This year is different. I have made a bunch of small resolutions and one kind of big one. In an effort to hold myself responsible, I will share them with you:

The Small Ones:

1. I will answer my phone more often.
I have a rule that if I don't have time to talk to someone, I don't answer my phone. I hate it when I call people and they answer by saying "Hey - I can't talk right now, can I call you later?" (If you can't talk, don't pick up. I'd be happy to leave a message.) Anyway, my resolution has nothing to do with that rule really - I still plan to not answer my phone if I can't talk. But if I can talk and I'm just tired... if I've had a long day and my phone rings and I look at it and think "I'm just not sure I want to talk with anyone right now" - that's what this resolution is for. Usually I just look at my phone and think "I don't have the energy to talk with anyone right now" and then I don't answer. But what I know about myself is that if I do pick up the phone and I talk with a friend and spend a few minutes connecting and laughing and communicating with another human being, 99% of the time I hang up the phone with more energy than I had before the phone rang. 

2. I will drink more tea. 
The main drive behind this is that I purchased quite a bit of loose-leaf tea as part of a Christmas gift, and kept half of all I purchased. Also, I like tea. 

3. I will work harder to make new friends. 
I have spent a lot of time since moving to Boston lamenting the fact that I don't have a group of friends here like I did in San Francisco. I have many friends here - good friends - but no group. I remember back to my days in SF when someone would send out an email mid-day asking if anyone wanted to meet up for drinks, and there would always be at least a few takers. It was just so easy. Many of my friends here live outside the city, or have kids or husbands who keep them from being able to be available at short notice like that. So my friends here are not available like my friends in SF were. They are good friends and I'm not interested in getting rid of them, but I do need to increase the number of people in my life I can call on a whim and ask to hang out. So this year I will make new friends and renew my efforts with my old friends as well. 

4. I will blog at least once a week.
There are people out there (you know who you are) who require weekly updates to know I'm still alive (you could call... I'll be more likely to answer). Also, writing is good for me. I think I got a little burned out after NaBloPoMo, but once a week really isn't all that often and I always feel so accomplished after I post. Also, I want to change the design of my blog, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

And The Big One:

I will not make any unnecessary/impulse purchases for three months.
After tracking my spending over a few of the fall months, it became clear that much of my spending was not planned spending, and it added up. I want to get a handle on my finances and be more aware of where my hard-earned money goes. I have given myself $100 to spend over the three months because I know things come up, but that's all I get. I am allowed to spend money on food (including restaurants, within reason) (note to self, when a guy volunteers to pay for a date, SAY YES!), gas, and other necessities (toothpaste, shampoo, etc.). Unnecessary/impulse purchases include clothing, make-up, crafting supplies, and any random object found during a trip to the grocery store that gets tossed into my cart without any thought as to whether or not I actually need it.

So there are my goals for 2009. I've got more, but these are the ones I really hope to stick with. Now that it's nearly a month past New Year's, what resolutions have you all made? What have you stuck with? 

Happy 2009 everyone. I'll write again within the week.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Just a Few More

What are you most passionate about?
"Lots of useless stuff"

What is the first thing people probably notice about you?
"I'm interested in what they're saying... usually, mostly."

What are some things you can't live without?
"My credit cards"

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