Sunday, August 10, 2008

why i do what i do

Someone told me this weekend that I chose 'intense' careers (hospice care and emergency medicine). I suppose that looking in from the outside things would seem that way, but I don't personally view them as such, especially the hospice gig.

I don't see what I do as being any more heroic or spectacular than the girl working the register at the grocery store. I saw a need, knew that I could fill that need - and not only could I fill it, I was GOOD at it - so I did what I thought was the responsible thing and went to work.

Not everyone can do what I do. I understand that. I understand how people would think that what I for hospice is morbid or horrible or a terribly emotional job. It is ALL of those things sometimes. Not every death is quiet and calm, not every death is peaceful and clean and pleasant. However, I do my utmost to MAKE every death as much of those things as it can possibly be. It's my job to help people die, and I try to do that to the best of my ability.

My job is not all about patient care, though. It's about family care too, and that's where the emotion comes in. Usually, people who are dying are somewhat resigned to it; they're not as upset about it as their kith and kin are. It's the family and those left behind that are the emotional ones. It's a normal, natural thing and I deal with it like anyone else would - I cry too.

Yes, I cry. I'm not emotionally stronger than anyone else, I'm not a superhero and things get to me and bother me. I've just learned how to deal with my emotions. I hold my pain tight and make myself feel it. I make myself hurt. Masochistic? Yeah. But it works for me. If I don't get rid of the emotion I've absorbed shortly after I've attended a death, it will fuck with me for days in more ways than I can list. It affects me physically and psychologically - I'll either sleep too much or not at all, I'll have no appetite or will eat everything in sight, I'll be hyperactive and talk to everyone or I'll be sluggish and not able to verbalize what I'm feeling. Once I went a week without really dealing with what I'd seen, heard and done. Mistake. I literally spent a whole 48 hours on the couch, unwashed and unfed, semi-catatonic. I was a mess, and it was the last time I made that mistake. Of course that particular death was...umm....yeah, I probably shouldn't say anything else. It was different, and that's all I have to say 'bout that.

I'm not a heroine. I'm not an angel. I've never felt anyone's soul leave their body, I've never felt a divine presence in the room as a patient lay dying. My personal beliefs don't play a part in the care I provide, though - I've even lead prayers with family members circled around a deathbed. I do what I think is necessary for my patient and their family, even if that means chasing nurses up and down hallways until they give my patient the pain medication our physician ordered for them, or praying with a family even though I'm an atheist.

I'm not a hero or an angel or even a very nice person some days. I'm just a girl who happens to be good at helping people die. And saving lives, but that's a story for another day.

I'm just me. That's all.

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