Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Exit Intuition

I was sitting in our break room cramming down some lunch when I felt it. He was gone. He had just left; I sensed his departure. I contemplated getting up from my lunch to verify that his breathing had stopped and his heart had ceased to beat. But decided there was no need to hurry anymore.

When I finished eating, I forgot for a moment that I had intuited his exit and distractedly went to get my charts to fine-tune my notes for the evening thus far. When I approached his door to grab the binder hanging from it, I suddenly remembered. The fact that I'd forgotten set my heart into a quickened, panicked pace. How could one forget something so significant?

I walked straight into the room, set the pile of charts I'd been carrying snugly against my breasts onto a table and slid the curtain aside to approach his bed.

One look at him and I didn't even need to lay my stethoscope on his chest. The color had left his face; in its place, a pallor known only to the deceased. I fell into routine and felt the last trace of warmth from his body as I listened for the rhythmic sounds of respiration or pulse.

Hearing none, I took my time removing the pillows from underneath his knees, flattening his bed, straightening his bed linens, laying his arms out straight at his sides. As I left the room to call the doctor and ask her to officially pronounce the death and notify the next of kin, I felt a peace and quiet calm that spoke louder than the New Age music playing lightly on the stereo by the bed.


Jennynyc said...

In your line of work, does that happen much? What I mean is, do you sense when someone has died/passed on? I've always been interested in that phenomenon, like when a loved one feels something when their family member dies...before they find out. Do you think that some people have that intuition and others don't? What is it like to have that?

Nurse Mia said...

The longer I have worked with people who are dying, the stronger this intuition seems to get. I would have suspected the strength of the intuition to be related to some degree to how preoccupied I am, though that hypothesis doesn't match this story. I was clearly very distracted at the time I felt this. I get into a different frame of mind when working with people who are imminently dying. More centered within myself and more open and that is probably a better explanation for it. I don't know if this is a common experience. I have not heard family members report similar sensations. Most of the family members I've worked with have been distraut in their own emotions of personal loss and I imagine these feelings would get in the way. Grief is powerful and natural and necessary.

Jennynyc said...