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Feb 15, 2010


My patient is dying. He might very well already be dead. I can’t sleep tonight because I keep running through our conversations, especially the ones about his daughter, and my stomach turns over inside my belly. I am home tonight, tucked in bed, down the hall from my sleeping baby, but my mind is at work in his cramped hospital room, worrying, pacing, trying to understand why this happened, if we could have seen it coming, what I could have done to prevent it, what I can do to prevent it in the next patient.

Sometimes I bring my work home with me and process things while I sleep. I do that a lot, actually, especially if I’m excited about what I’m doing. I tried to put a chest tube in the cat one night while I slept. I am pretty sure I have attempted chest compressions on Patrick, which did not end well as he woke with something of a start. Once, I invited Myra back to my “office” and inquired as to what brought her in today. How odd to be licked by a patient, I thought at the time.

But not tonight.

Tonight I am not sleeping, not dreaming, not reviewing parts of my day in my head. Instead, my brain is whirring uselessly and I am afraid to go to work in the morning. Afraid to peek in his room, the room where I spent so much time over the last few days, for fear there will be nothing to see.

This is my first. They say that it gets easier, that you learn to be stronger for your patients, that you learn to distance yourself, not to blame yourself, to see the situation for what it is and not what you feel that it is. They say that you get used to it and that you eventually are able to sleep when this is happening. I can’t believe that they aren’t home pacing too.

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Anonymous said...


It's hard. I've only had one so far, and it was very difficult to get through. I hope for the best for your patient.

XE said...


Tiffany said...

Thinking of you.

Beth said...

It never gets easier. The breaking of bad news, the watching and waiting. The actual death itself.

We're human and built to experience emotions. Some are better at keeping things in check than others.

I still remember the first patient I had that died. I was on my surgery rotation as a medical student. I'll never forget it.

When doing our jobs gets easier, it's time to look for something else.

I know what you're going through and that it sucks. I hope your memories are all good ones and that when you're years removed from this in your career you realize that you've taken from this and made it into who you are as a doctor.

mary martha said...

it is rough to watch any living being die. However, remember his last days were blessed by a loving, caring, compassionate person who stays awake at night worrying because her heart is so big and all encompassing...
You are going to be one of the best doctors ever.
I love ya