First off, this is about a death, so if it bothers you, don’t read.
As a nurse, I see a lot of death, some peaceful, some horrifying. This is a story about a peaceful one. There was a patient that died recently, a restless soul that was not doing well due to multiple medical issues. That person’s gentle partner decided to change our care in the ICU to “comfort care”, which means we no longer attempt everything we can do to fix the problem (which can be very costly, invasive, and yes, many times cruel). Comfort care is keeping the patient clean, dry, warm, and to the best of our ability, free from pain and anxiety. This latter part is not always achievable, but we do try. This particular patient had had a rough prior week before coming our ICU, and we all did our very best to make things right. The gentle partner voiced appreciation for how considerate we were of this person and how we treated the patient with dignity. The patient did end up dying however, and waited until the gentle partner arrived at the bedside in a hurry before the heart stopped beating.
What happened after that was beautiful. Afterward the family left, I fixed the patient to the best of my ability; and that person was sent to the funeral home. The room was cleaned and made ready for another patient.
But we didn’t get another patient that day. That empty ICU room stood empty all day, bathed in the brightest sunlight streaming through the windows I have ever seen. I commented on it to my co-workers – I have never seen a hospital room look so radiant, dressed in the majestic splendor of the sun’s heavenly rays. It was almost as if that patient asked God to keep us from having to work hard for the rest of the day with another ICU admission, and graced the room with beauty as a final “thank-you” for the love and care we gave.