Saturday, April 10, 2010


I've spent the last several nights working in a Haitian emergency room along side some very talented and caring physicians and nurses.  Last night an unconscious man was brought in by car and carefully laid on a stretcher outside our rain-soaked tent. Dressed in mud-soaked jeans and a worn t-shirt he had simply collapsed while crossing the street. His family brought him to us.  There was no neurologic function, his blood pressure was very high, and his heart rate was slow; all indications that he had burst a blood vessel in his head.  There was nothing that we could do for the man.

The family listened intently as the news was passed through a Creole translator.  They asked if there was some machine that we could put him on, some medication that they could procure that might give him a chance to come back to them. "We're sorry, there is really nothing we can do".  The family went away to get some other clothes so that their father/friend/husband didn't have to die in wet jeans and a soiled t-shirt.

He lay there and I watched.  All night, breath after breath… I watched.  I watched as the man took his last breath, nothing more than a small gasp really.  It stopped raining; I left the tent to get some coffee.


Long-time RN said...

As a nurse, I've been privileged to be with individuals at the time of passing. I've often wondered about life's end. One minute a breath, then none follow. What is it that makes a particular breath the last?

Lovely photos. Take care.

lorraine said...

Many years ago I slept in a 92 pt ward, on the floor, where my girlfriend had been brought to the hospital after a car accident. I knew nothing about medicine. I was in India and the only thing I knew for sure is that if I didn't stay with her she surely would die there. She was 6 mos pregnant. This, of course becomes a very long story I will not go into here, but the lady in the next bed - 3 ft away was dying. She didn't have anyone with her - most of the other patients did - I turned my attention to her - she asked for water (panni) I took a spoon and put it to her mouth. She swished it around and spit it out and died. Now as a nurse I attend many passings. I always feel a sensation both physical and emotional of floating - a true high. The sky is always closer and I try to get outside soon to grasp the stars within my reach.

I am glad you are there to do the work. Enjoy your strength. But for being old I would love to be next to you. Someone has to stay behind and tend to those here. It is up to the long in tooth to stay - is it not? Take care.