Tag Archives: patient dignity

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Stephanie Hinton is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University

 

It’s August 17th. My grandmother died today. She never made it to palliative care. Instead, she was kept in the corner of a hospital room surrounded by empty walls and a window looking out over a parking lot. She was confined to her bed, barely conscious, and at the mercy of those with little experience in end-of-life care because she had not quite been deemed “palliative.” I sat by her bedside for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row, leaving only to sleep. I watched her grimace in pain and counted down the hours to the next dose of pain medication. It would finally come — four hours late and barely offering the relief she was looking for. We waited for a doctor to come check on her and answer our questions. We were told they didn’t know where the doctor was or when the doctor was coming, or — my personal favourite — “Doctor’s don’t need to keep you informed of every care decision.”

She had been refused IV hydration and kept NPO, and her vitals were never checked. When they were finally checked, she was saturating dangerously below 90%. On August 17th at 8:00 am, we received a call telling us she would be moved to palliative care. At 8:15 am, we got a call telling us she had died. She was alone. We had been given empty promises the night before that she “might pull through,” and we were unable to stay the night. We were given the “privilege” of seeing her 45 minutes after she had passed, the “privilege” of calling family members to ask them if they would like to come and say their final goodbyes. We had the “privilege” of sitting by her bedside and waiting for family to arrive long after she had transitioned between life and death, doctors and nurses nowhere in sight to offer the support we desperately needed. We sat with a dreadful feeling, wondering how we could have better advocated for her and knowing she was not given the dignified death she deserved. This feeling would linger and creep up months after her death. ...continue reading

Graeme RockerGraeme Rocker is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax

Editor’s note: Part I of this series appeared as a Humanities article in CMAJ; parts II , III and IV appeared on CMAJ Blogs.

 

At six months and counting, life has mostly returned to normal, although persistent heaviness in dependent parts still creates intermittent discomfort. A long bicycle ride with insufficient padding had me worrying about Fournier’s gangrene for days. Wearing old lycra with my new contours, I did a brutal number on one upper thigh and side of scrotum. ...continue reading

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Graeme Rocker is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax

Editor’s note: Part I of this series appeared as a Humanities article in CMAJ.

I woke from the anesthetic with the worst dry mouth ever and the agonizing sensation of a massive overfilled bladder being ripped apart from the inside. I let loose some very repetitive Anglo-Saxon expletives not generally expected of a health care professional. When asked to rate the degree of agony on the usual scale of 0 to 10, I spluttered 15! Finally, a hydromorphone bolus kicked in, and I then settled into a few hours of patient-controlled analgesia. At some point that first night I felt the most sublime sense of calm, as if my place in the universe was just as it should be and that all would be well for all time. I can only presume it was an opioid haze. It still felt as if a mule had kicked me in the pelvis, but for a while it just it didn’t matter. That remarkable feeling never came again, but I was awed by the powers that these drugs have when used in the right amount, time and place. ...continue reading