After a long code, a patient died on my unit tonight. As the doctors and nurses did their jobs, the patient's daughter was left with me—the secretary. I was the one with her as she gave her mother a final kiss goodbye. I stood by her side as she gathered up her mother’s belongings. I was the one who walked her to the elevator at the end of that very long night.
I was working my usual 3 to 11 shift when an elderly woman was admitted to my floor. I could tell it wasn’t good. There was a lot of commotion— doctors and nurses rushing in and out, checking vitals and calling orders. It’s never easy to see patients suffer. And it breaks my heart to see their loved ones standing by, scared and helpless. I watched them push past her daughter as they ran in and out, in and out.
Then they handed her paperwork to sign. Her mother had passed.
I’ve worked here for nine years. It never gets easier. I wanted to cry.
The senior nurse stopped by my desk and asked me to go to the patient’s daughter. “I am the person who answers the phones,” I thought. But I knew if I was being called upon to do this, she must really need me. The next thing I knew, I was standing beside Laura.* She had collapsed in a chair outside her mother’s hospital room. There were tears running down her face and she looked stunned. She was talking on her cell phone, but she stopped when I came over. I had a name tag so maybe she thought I was someone important, because she told whoever she was on the phone with that she needed to go, and hung up.
The phone rang again but I reached out my hand to stop her from answering. Then I put it on her shoulder. “Let’s take care of you first,” I said.
We sat together for a while. I rubbed her back while she cried. I just sat there and let her feel her feelings. After a few minutes, she asked if she could go in and say goodbye to her mother. She looked to me for approval. She wasn’t crying anymore.
“Do you want me to go with you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she nodded.
I stood by as she smoothed her mother’s hair and kissed her cheek. “She looks so pale but peaceful. Like she’s just asleep,” Laura said. She was right.