Thank you, Eileen

A short story of how the actions of one nurse played a pivotal and impactful role in my experience of losing of a loved one. Nurses Announcements Archive


Four years ago, my father died. We were all expecting him to die since he was a terminal cancer patient, however, when his life began to end we were in complete shock. Chalk it up to denial or hope, we were completely surprised when the time actually came. If it wasn't for the bravery of one nurse, the last days of his life would have been filled with a great deal of confusion for our family. This nurse completely changed our ability to filter information and make a decision while dealing with a dying family member. She gave us strength and clarity, two things which we were severely lacking before her intervention.

When my father received his stage IV cancer diagnosis, the Oncologist gave him three years to live because he was relatively young and healthy. One year into that three-year timeline, he started to deteriorate slightly. He became less happy, ate less, and experienced more pain on a daily basis. Nevertheless, he was still carrying on his life, driving about town, going to doctor's appointments and running errands. He had just returned from a road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to consult with another Oncologist when he started to experience extreme pain. The pain became so unbearable that he went to the hospital. He was given Morphine to ease the pain. He fell asleep and he never woke up.

In between falling asleep and dying, there were a handful of days. He went to the ER on a Sunday and died on Friday. When he initially fell asleep, he would have brief periods of consciousness and be able to semi-interact with us in a coherent fashion. He made slurred requests to not let visitors see him in his current state and asked me to rearrange plans he had made with friends. Eventually, his periods of semi-consciousness turned into delirium. He would open his eyes and make eye contact with us but would speak about something that wasn't happening in the room. He was happy and jovial but not with us. Even in his delirium, he still embarrassed me in front of any and all hospital staff by telling them I was a nurse, one of his favorite things to do.

My father's sudden decline in functioning left my family and I in a state of total confusion. He had doctors and staff from every department pay him a visit and they would each clear him from their standpoint. The hospitalist suggested we decrease his pain medication to bring back more lucid behavior. Infectious disease ensured us he did not have an underlying infection. The discharge planner encouraged us to decide on a local skilled nursing facility for him to be transferred to until he regained his normal level of functioning. My family and I were running in circles, both mentally and physically, trying to reconcile what the doctors and staff were telling us with the shell of a person we saw laying the bed. Even though I was a nurse, I felt useless to my family as a source of guidance. I was out of my realm and dealing with death for the first time.

On Tuesday, the day shift nurse, Eileen, pulled my mother outside of the room to speak to her outside of my father's earshot. She told my mother point blank, "He is dying. I have been an Oncology nurse for many years and this is what happens. The organs shut down and the mind starts to slip away." These words were hard to hear, but they were what we needed to hear. Eileen could sense that we knew this was the reality of the situation, although we needed validation from someone. No one had even brought up the words "death" or "dying" up until this point. Her words were the most logical and easy to understand we had heard since the beginning of his cancer diagnosis. She wasn't speaking in medical jargon or down from a pedestal. She was a human, talking to another human, in a hallway.

The bravery of Eileen's actions helped our family come together and get through the worst part of that week, Wednesday through Friday. We made the heart wrenching decision to pursue palliative care and he died two days later on the same day his daughter gave birth to his only granddaughter. He died two years before we were expecting and decades before we were ready to let him go, however, it was his time. Eileen led with her heart in a moment of need and the impact of her actions will never fade from our memory. From one nurse to another, thank you.


530 Posts

So sorry for your never is easy. Beautiful story.

Specializes in Chief Nursing Officer.

I'm so terribly sorry for the loss of your father. You really resonated with my heart when you said, "She was a human, talking to another human, in a hallway." This is beautifully written angiebaci, and you challenged me to once again always to see our patients and their families as humans. Bless you dear one.

TriciaJ, RN

4,322 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

I'm so sorry about your dad, but I am glad for you that someone was willing to go out on a limb and say it like it is. It's not comforting when people tiptoe around. Sometimes you just want to know what you're dealing with so you can deal with it. Eileen is a true role model.

Wishing you and your family peace and healing.

Adelinna, CNA

99 Posts

This brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.

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