How Do You Let Go

I have been caring for Mr. Peters for last few days. Mr. Peters is 85 years old. He was living his life when incidently he was found to have lung cancer. He started chemotherapy and radiation which played havoc on his body. One day trying to get out of his bed, he fell and broke his hip.

Of course the surgery was done. But least expected the surgical site got infected. And then began the cycle of hospital admissions, discharge to a rehabilitation facility and readmission to the hospital. This admission, Mr. Peters came with pneumonia, infection in his lungs. We treated him with antibiotics, oral care, fluids and hours of nursing care. Mr. Peters was recovering but then the wound on the leg looked infected and he had to go to the OR for revision. Once again, his fragile body went thru the havoc. He lost blood, his kidney function worsened, his lungs filled up with fluids. With medical care most of the abnormalities were fixed. But over last two weeks his swallowing muscles weakened to the extent that he was not able to handle his secretions.

Today, I see Mr. Peters. Overnight he got sick. His oxygen requirement increased. He likely aspirated on something he was trying to eat.

I meet with his family and him. Mr. Peters tells me he wants to discontinue the care he is getting. He is done living and wants to pull the plug. His wife, his daughter and son and extended family are there. I look at Mr. Peters. His eyes are bright, he is looking at me with authority. And I question myself, how do I let go of Mr. Peters.

We talked to him and I transferred him to ICU with the promise that I will visit him everyday. We all begged him to give us a few days to try to save his life. He agreed. I walked out of the room thinking its so hard for me to face the reality now that I have spend hours with Mr. Peters. I think of his family – how do you let go of someone you love?

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