The healthcare field is no doubt, extremely versatile. I have come across many different cultures and different walks of life. One of the qualities that I love about my job in aiding people into dying is that I can be a benefit to the healthcare community without having to be medically licensed as a doctor or a nurse. I could do my due diligence without wearing a white coat which has only saved me 10-years of medical school, 100K in student loans, and an umpteenth number of hours in residency! #Winning! I, of course, am not anywhere near qualified to be a doctor or a nurse, but my point is that I am able to change lives.
After I started this position, I still had doubts- is this ethical? Is this something that I should be doing? Is this going against everything that I believe in? Every day, I would wake-up, give thanks, and start my day viewing my cases. I prayed for this job, and I got it. So, in my eyes, this was a part of my will and my journey, but it was still a constant battle.
My very first case was a family of two, both of which were deaf. Of course, the process requires many appointments and much communication. In the past three years, how many cases has the organization had participating in the end stages of life Program where the patient was deaf? You guessed it, ZERO. So, here I am, the new girl on the block and I get the most complicated case. The end stages of life program is completely voluntary across the board- doctors, nurses, hospice staff, palliative care personnel, pharmacists, and interpreters do not have to participate in the process. So, when I say complicated, I must search for an interpreter who will agree to participate in this process. Great!
Luckily, the family had an amazing interpreter that they had worked with over the years and she agreed to help. As we went through the process, the appointments, and hospice counseling; my first case seemed to be going smooth, no hiccups. (Go ME!) Once the 15th-day was complete, the doctor who is suppose to first see this patient has decided to go on vacation. Well, damn! Just my luck. Now, the patient agreed that we would complete the process and schedule delivery of the medication upon the doctor’s return. That was music to my ears, because when the patient is stressed and eager, my Anxiety level shoots up to a hard 10 and that is no good for no one.
The Fucker Named Cancer
As I understand more how terminal illnesses work, I realize that one day is never the same as the next. When cancer gets a hold of you, one minute can be copasetic and the next can be agonizing pain. I woke up one morning, unable to sleep the night before- mind filled with what if’s, and what the hell am I doing questions. I woke up to several calls and text from the interpreter service for my hearing-impaired patient. Panicked, I called the interpreter line to see what was going on. “The cancer, the cancer has spread. I cannot eat, I cannot drink, and I cannot swallow. Please, hurry, come with the medication.” I instantly felt a tightness in my stomach, thinking what the hell am I going to do when the prescribing physician is on vacation! I order the patient to go to the emergency room (ER). Turns out, the patient had been to the ER five times within the past week- the cancer spread so badly that the pain medication was no longer active.
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion, and the will to help others.” -Thomas A. Edison
I called another physician who works with these type of patients and who agreed to see the patient in place of the doctor who was having martinis on someones island and write the prescription. Legit, I had a full-on panic attack, that stressed the shit out of me! Again, thoughts raced as to what the hell I was doing in this position in the first damn place. [breaths in and out] [farts] [breaths in and out].
The next day, myself and the pharmacist deliver the medication. The family is present, signaling us to take off our shoes upon entering the home. Once inside, I notice a tiny-frail body to my left, crawling around the floor-helpless, in excruciating pain, unable to speak but only able to signal his sorrow. Imagine, a over-60-year old grown man crawling on the floor. Horrible sight! Our eyes meet, and I can instantly see his need to make the pain go away. He fought a long battle, he was strong as long as he could be, he went through as much aggressive treatment as his body could handle; nothing worked. He was speaking to me louder than anyone I ever heard- he did not deserve to live out the rest of his days in unbearable pain. At that moment, I answered my own questions that lingered in my head.
#mymissionmypurposemyduty #fuckcancer #fuckterminalillness #ilovepeople