I had a patient about 2 years ago, whose diagnosis I've since forgotten, that was admitted to my floor for strength training and rehab before going to live with her daughter. She was a dear, sweet lady, always smiling, but rather frail. She was part of my patient assignment every night that I worked for almost 3 weeks, and I got to know her rather well in that short (?) period of time. I would often bring her out of her room and 'park' her by the nurses' station so she would have people to talk with and something to see other than the inside of her room (family wasn't local so couldn't come to visit all that often). She got to know all of us by name, and always seemed happy to see me when I came on shift. "Oh there's my favorite nurse!" she would say with a smile. It got to the point where I was looking forward to my shift just so I could see her. :)
As time went on, she started to deteriorate, and was (finally) made a DNR. The family liked the care we gave her so much they wanted her to stay with us until the end. The last few days she was alive, I came in on my days off and sat with her for a few hours. She was completely unresponsive, but it made me feel good to be there and hold her hand. Her daughter was in as well for those few short days, and wasn't sure what to do with her. She was afraid to touch her, afraid to talk to her, just was at a complete loss.
"I'm going to lose my mother, and I don't know what to do."
I lost my sister in '05 to cancer, so I had all the empathy in the world for the daughter. I told her, "Talk to her. She can still hear you. Touch her, kiss her, hold her hand. She may not respond, but she knows you're here." So she did. I left her alone with her mom, went home, and got a call from a co-worker that night letting me know that the patient had passed.
I was very saddened by the loss, but I know we gave her excellent care and her passing was peaceful.
Several weeks later, one of my co-workers came into a room where I was doing an assessment and said "There is someone at the desk who wants to see you." When I went out, there was the daughter. She gave me a huge hug and said, "Thank you. I will never forget what you did for Mom, and how you helped me to be there for her as her time came to an end." She handed me a card and a small, tissue-paper-wrapped package. "This was Mom's. I know she would want you to have them, and my brother and I want you to have them, too."
Inside the box was a beautiful set of opal earrings. I was absolutely overwhelmed, and the two of us sat and hugged and sobbed and smiled at each other.
I will never forget Mrs. R. This is why I became a nurse.