Death and Dying 101 – course passed – high level of nursing skills in compassion, comfort, pain management, and support for surviving family members.
I have just returned from the funeral parlor after attending the services for a dear, wonderful friend and colleague of 10 years. I discovered that knowing all of that learned text didn’t really help; at least in this case. Why not? Because this time I wasn’t the nurse utilizing my skills and knowledge, but rather I was on the other side – needing comfort from the deep sadness and sense of loss that I was feeling.
Intellectually, I knew long before today that my friend was dying. I kept trying to solve the puzzle and sort out the often-contradictory pieces of her medical care. Because I was receiving only limited information from her and her significant other, it was perplexing and frustrating for me and at times I became angry with her. Many times I argued “That is simply not medically factual. If ‘x’ occurs, then ‘y’ and ‘z’ will follow – it always has in all of my years of nursing.” She would then quickly change some of the information to support her current theory.
Undaunted, I would pursue other general issues regarding her well being. Always asking, “so what medication are you receiving for this condition”? She would tell me with hesitation that this particular medication was prescribed for her “unusual” condition. I would invariably say that this medication is routinely prescribed for a different medical condition. “No”, she would insist, “not in this case”.
She finally stopped working around the first of the year and decided to stay at home and give herself a chance to recuperate before resuming her nursing duties. The weeks became months, and over the last month, I knew from her continuing physical decline, medication, and her symptoms – easily fatigued, constipation, nausea, and noted jaundice – exactly what was ahead.
I felt betrayed that my dear friend could not tell me her real medical condition. It took all of my problem solving skills to finally ascertain the correct diagnosis. At last, I had the truth!
Did it change the outcome for her? Not one bit. Only the fact that she died knowing that she had spared her friends and family a long grieving process and that was typical of Delight. She always thought of her patients and their families first. She would often visit the surviving family members to give them comfort and support. Now, knowing all of this, I look back on one of our last conversations – the jokes, the plans for her next treatment, the patients that she would care for, and when she would return to her nursing duties. Life was as normal as apple pie, or as close as it could be for her and I, and she was certain that it wasn’t going to change.
Until today, March 5th, Delight Sanville died at the age of 52.
She will surely be missed by me, by her co-workers, and by the families that she serviced. She will be remembered fondly for all of her kindness and for the thoughtful, loving things that she did that touched the lives of everyone she encountered.
Death and dying will hardly be the same for me anymore.
Delight Lolene Sanville December 7, 1946 – March 5, 1999 My Friend
Holyoke Sun Article for 3/10/1999