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Wed Apr 25, 2012, 09:49 PM

Let me tell you a tale about how comforting a chaplain can be in the setting of death warming over

I'm in a story-tellin' mood, so I'm gonna tell a story.

The patient I speak of is real, but I am purposefully mixing gender pronouns as to make this patient as unidentifiable as possible, but I assure you this is a true event that I personally witnessed that has affected me ever since.

----

I'm currently a nurse in an Emergency Room but I used to work in a different setting--ICU, progressive care, cardiac/telemetry..that kind of thing.

When I was in those floor-settings, I would often have the same patients on a frequent basis, and for long periods of time.

There was one patient...Mary, or Frank...and they were a frequent visitor of the ward I worked on. They were in their late 60's to mid 70's, and their health had caught up with their life of poor health choices and hard living, poverty and bad luck in the genetic department.

I saw this person, over the course of about 2 years, more and more frequently as their health problems got more and more severe, more and more chronic. I saw this person go from coming in for the occasional short of breath, or chest pain, to needing home oxygen, to soon needing dialysis. Their diabetes started causing kidney problems (hence the dialysis), and soon their feet lost feeling from neuropathy, and maybe even an amputation was down the road.

Over the course of these 2 years, Mary and I became pretty good friends...as far as a nurse and patient can be friends. I used to joke that if she wanted to hang out at the hospital she didn't have to have Chest Pain or Shortness of Breath to do so, she could just come by and say hi! She got a kick out of that. When she got neuropathy, she was tickeled pink that she was able to get one of those little scooters to get around in. She had a flag, and a bicycle horn on it that went Ah-Ooo-Gah, and she'd zoom around the ward and honk at RN's and make us jump and squeal (even though we could hear that blasted scooter coming from a mile away!)

The years went on and she got older and sicker. SO much so that she couldn't scoot around the department and pretend to scare us anymore. She was tired, and she was sick, and she was dying.
----

I've always been a night shift worker. I just have that mentality. I crave night shifts. My circadian rhythm has always been off. 7am is a time for sleeping, not working!

----

well Frank was a day sleeper too. HATED being in the hospital because "Why can't they just make a man sleep when he wants to sleep? Why do i have to eat breakfast at 8 in the morning? I'm dying" (Remember...frank and mary are the same person).

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, when Frank was a patient and things were slow, I knew I could count on Frank for some decent late-night conversation. So I'd go in---we always gave bath's at night---give a bath, brush teeth, and talk.

Frank talked about Sally...wife? girlfriend? I didn't know. But she was gone. Dead? who knows. Not here anymore, I know that.

Frank talked about his church, too. Invited me to come many times over the years. Always politely declined. I am not one to talk about religion or politics or anything like that at work, but I think he got the gist of my refusal, that I was refusing because I just didn't believe in that stuff "I sometimes don't believe in a lot of it m'self" he said "but some of it I do". I would nod my head and say it's good to believe in things if they make you feel better. He agreed, and asked me what I believed in. "I believe I am going to have a beer when I get home and sleep the day away!" i'd say. He'd laugh and say that sounds like a great things to believe in, too.

---

One thing Mary and I had in common were our cats. She had two, and I had two. When she'd go to the hospital she'd bring with her a really big bag of stuff....curlers (who has a hair-do in the hospital??), and a robe, slippers, denture cream, and abig photo album. For a while I thought it was family...nope, cats. Well, yes, family. Catfamily.

She had no kids, no family except for a distant niece from what she told me.

When she'd go to the hospital, her neighbor would watch the cats---Snickers and Snickers 2. They were cute, and she loved telling me stories about how Snickers 2 would cause mischief and blame it on Snickers 1. I know! I said. My cats do the SAME DANG THING!!!

She showed me pics of her family and I showed her pics of mine.

---

There came a time when Frank got really ill. He was in longer than his normal 3-4 day stya, and reallly started missing his cats. He told me about how the cats loved going for drives in the country "They aint' afraid of a dang thing, not a thing!". Against my better judgement, I suggested that his neighbor bring the cats in one night when I was working. I thought that would make him feel better. It looked like the end was near, and all he could talk about was Snick and Snick.

I could have lost my job for this. The cats could have bitten someone, or gotten out, or someone would have seen it and wanted their dog or gerbil or pet monkey to come in.

But I didn't care. No one ever asked, and I would ahve probably said yes if they did even for a monkey or a dog. But I knew it would make Frank feel better, so i did it, job be damned.

So the next night I worked, around 11pm, the neighbor came in carrying a large, conspicuous box that made odd sounds every now and again. Went into the room (Frank was in a private room, which is a nice amenity to going to a private hospital) and opened the box. One of the Snickers promptly shit in the corner and then jumped up on the bed and went to sleep at Frank's feet. The other Snicker crawled under his blanket and purred both of them to sleep. It was beautiful ,and Frank couldn't say Thank you enough. They stayed there for about an hour, his mood vastly improved, and then the neighbor took them back home.
---

A few days after the Snicker visit, Mary was able to go back home, but not for long. Soon she was back, and worse. She spent a great deal of time in the ICU, in and out of consciousness. She finally came back to her regular room and I knew she probably wouldn't leave. She was given Comfort Care orders. Minimize pain and anxiety and prepare for death.

We kept her comfortable. It was hard to believe the end was near...I had known her as a nursing student, then as an RN, and now, here, she's dying? She was still full of energy, talking about the cats, talking to them on the phone via her neighbor "Snickers said she cough a mouse today, but Snickers 2 said it was really him that caught it, he just gave it to Snick to make her feel better since Mama's gone".

As the days wore on, though, she got weaker, less talking, more sleeping. I wanted the cats to come in but she was too sleepy to remember to tell the neighbor.

Finally, one night, she asked for a chaplain to come in. I paged the on-call number for after-hours Chaplain and thought "Please don't let it be Father Prick"...

----
Father Prick was not his real name....it was the name the staff had given him years ago. Why he was allowed to console was beyond me because he was the least consoling person I had ever encountered in my life on this planet. I heard him tell the family of a dying patient, who happened to be morbidly obese, that god frowned on gluttony. He refused to chaplain to patients who were Gay, and he never really had anything kind to say to people who were dying of AIDS.

I really disliked him. he just had that way of adding a biting, inappropriate comment to everything. The bully's way. He'd say it with a shit-eating grin, as if to say "oh, when I called you a dirty gluttonous sinner I was only joking, can't you take a joke, you fat fuck?"

----

Sure as shit, Fr Prick was the one on call. He walked in, grumpy that he had been awoken at 10pm to deliver final rites to a dying patient. He asked one of the nursing assitant if she brushed her hair with a rake before she came into work, and when she looked hurt and offended, he smiled and said it was only a joke, she looks ravishing, keep up the hair-style, it compliments your personality.

----

I was in the room when Mary was speaking with him. She had been moved into a double room a few days earlier, along with another patient who was on comfort measures. I was actually charting and passing meds to the other patient while Mary and Fr Prick spoke behind the curtain.

Mary told him that she was dying, and asked for last rites. Fr asked her if she was Catholic, and she said that she had gone to Mass as a young woman, but hadn't really been to Catholic chuch in a while, rather prefering the local presbyterian chapel closer to her house "God does not look kindly on bedside conversions" he said, and I knew he had that shitty grin on his face when he said it.

He asked about family, was she married? "Common Law" she said. "Me and Dave lived together for about 20 years, but he died a few years back". He reminded her about the sin of co-habitation, and that God did not recognize common law marriage.

They talked about a few other things, mostly her asking for comfort and him shooting her down, ridiculing her beliefs and countering everything she said with a reminder of its sinfulness.

After about 10 minutes he gave her rites and asked impatiently if there was anything else she wanted, (heaven forbid he spend more than a quarter hour with a lonely dying woman. He probably had some flies at home he needed to pull the wings off of) she said "No, father, I guess I don't. I'm pretty scared, but at least I know I'll see the Snickers when I get up to heaven"

"Who are "the snickers?" he asked

"oh they're my babies. My kitties. One day they'll join me up there. They're my only family"

As he stood at the half-opened door, walkng out of the room, he said "Mary, animals don't have souls. Only those with souls are allowed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Don't worry, though, your family will be there, and He will be there, waiting for you with open arms" "I don't have any family, just them" she whispered. "I'm afraid your cats won't be in heaven, but the Glory of God will be waiting for you, and He is your family". And he walked out and shut the door and she never spoke another word again.

---

She was despondent. I went to her side, aghast at what I had heard, but she was UNCONSOLABLE.

I had nothing to say to counter that. I was so angry, I cried at her bedside. I said "oh Mary you know that's not true, you know you'll see the cats there! Heaven can't be heaven if your babies aren't there, I just don't believe it! He's wrong". She just curled up on her side, faced the wall, and stared at the wall for the rest of the night.

I tried in vain to reach the neighbor that had the cats, to bring them in, but I couldn't. I didn't know her name, and she wasn't on the next of kin phone list. I had the most horrible feeling inside of me.

Although she had been declining in health, she rapidily deteriorated after the meeting with the Priest. She stopped eating. Stopped drinking. Her vital signs were erratic. She never spoke again after his visit. When she was awake (which was less and less frequently), she'd just stare at the wall, curled up on her side.

I tried talking to her, but she didn't respond. Just stared at the wall.

She died during the daytime when I was at home sleeping. I fear that she probably died alone...daytimes are busy times. She never saw her cats again and I believe she went to her death with sadness and fear, instead of having a bit of hope of something to look forward to in the afterlife. That man took away every bit of hope she had and yanked from her the single bit of comfort in death--that she'd be rejoined with her Babies, her kitties, when she died. The only family she had, and that man didn't give a flying fuck about her needs. Just his need to be "right".

Who fucking CARES if the bible says "no animals in heaven" or "people who prefer red to green won't be in heaven" or "people named Frank and Mary won't be allowed in heaven". IF THEY ARE DYING, SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY TO CONSOLE THEM.

That man crushed the one thing that mattered to her. He didn't care .He got his last jibe in, his shit eating grin, his God Hates Everyone Especially You attitude.

If there is a hell, I hope he burns in it.

If there is a Heaven, I know Mary/Frank and The Snickers are there, causing mischief and wreaking havoc on a bright red scooter with an Aah-oo-gah horn


----

So yeah, I guess a chaplain CAN console differently than a non-believer can. Because I know of no-one with a thinking brain that would be that heartless towards the dying, and every Atheist/Agnostic RN I know of, despite their own lack of belief of heaven/hell/afterlife would have absolutely Validated Frank/Mary's desire to know that they'd see their loved ones (furry or human) again. Anything to give someone hope when they're at the end.

:cries:

24 replies, 2534 views

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Let me tell you a tale about how comforting a chaplain can be in the setting of death warming over (Original post)
Heddi Apr 2012 OP
Heddi Apr 2012 #1
mr blur Apr 2012 #9
roguevalley Apr 2012 #16
enlightenment Apr 2012 #19
JNelson6563 Apr 2012 #22
Starboard Tack Apr 2012 #24
opiate69 Apr 2012 #2
eqfan592 Apr 2012 #3
laconicsax Apr 2012 #4
Heddi Apr 2012 #5
Lost-in-FL Apr 2012 #7
darkstar3 Apr 2012 #6
trotsky Apr 2012 #10
sudopod Apr 2012 #8
trotsky Apr 2012 #11
PassingFair Apr 2012 #12
frogmarch Apr 2012 #13
Warpy Apr 2012 #14
roguevalley Apr 2012 #17
Curmudgeoness Apr 2012 #15
WillParkinson Apr 2012 #18
cleanhippie Apr 2012 #20
JNelson6563 Apr 2012 #21
onager Apr 2012 #23

Response to Heddi (Original post)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 10:07 PM

1. Sorry that was so long, but it's just how it came out. I do want to add

before I am accused of being less-than-humble, or trying to make myself appear to be a saint, or a perfect soul or whatever, that I'm not perfect. I'm a very flawed person. I've been rude to patients. I've dismissed complaints. I've prejudged people based on their previous history. I've not sat at the bedside of everyone who rolls through my doors and had a 45 hour long coversation with them about life and love and the meaning of it all.

But i've been doing this for a while and there are some things and events and people that just stick in your mind, and that you remember, and that moved you. Things you did right and things you did wrong. If you want to know about the things I've done wrong I'll be happy to write about that, too.

I'm not trying to toot my horn, and I don't think I'm extra special or better than or different than. It's just my experiences. Good and Bad. And every Nurse or Dr or whatever has them. Every accountant and ad sales rep has them. And so I'm sharing the things that I've encountered, and how I deal with them and dealt with them and I'm not saying that I'm perfect, and I've been imperfect so many times and said the wrong thing and the not right thing to say so many times, but I think I've done the good thing and a right thing and said a comforting thing a lot of times too. And that's what my posts in the religion forum and here were/are about.

I'm not a saint, and no one is, I'm just a person that works in a really hard job and does emotional things and sees people on probably the worst day of their life regularly, and I do it and I love it and I hate the necessity of it but I do it and a lot of people do it and I think that we (healthcare workers) get shit on a lot (that nurse didn't answer my call bell! )but I think that we do the best we can with what we have, and sometimes we don't have a lot, and sometimes we have a bunch of people with a bunch of needs---medical, psychological, pharmacological, emotional, and we're doing the best we can.

I remind everyone who thinks they can do a better job, or a different job, that there is a real big nursing shortage in this country, and it's hard to get into school and it's hard to stay in school (even 2 year programs)0 and it's physically demanding work but you can do it, too. So if you can be more perfect than me or my co-workers then get it to it.

And if you can't go to school, then volunteer in a hospital. We need tons of volunteers. Volunteers talk and console and interact with patients, too, and they're encouraged to do more than pass out magazines.

There are amazing things happening in hospitals around the country, and no one knows because it's just us and the patients mostly.

So I'm not trying to sound perfect. I'm not perfect.

As Morrissey sung so aptly:

"Don't rack up my mistakes
I know exactly what they are
and what do you do?
well you just sit there..."

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Response to Heddi (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 08:37 AM

9. You're not perfect? Well you're perfect for us.

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Response to Heddi (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:14 PM

16. wrong was wrong and that man was wrong. I had a near death q

experience. You go to intense, intense love. There is nothing but beauty and love over there. You don't have to believe me but I know. She will have her kitties. That man will have a long period of feeling every pain he ever caused and how it hurt everyone around those he hurt. He will feel the OP's pain too. What a sorry specimen he is. he's a priest because he's too lazy to do anything else. I feel for that woman but she's in absolute joy. Be at ease.

RV

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Response to Heddi (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 10:13 PM

19. Thank you for posting, Heddi

and for all you do for those in your care.

I read that thread of which you speak - what was said to you was horrid. Ignore people like that. They have nothing left, I guess, except to criticize and denigrate others. Let their bile be water off a duck's back - harmless.

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Response to Heddi (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 11:56 PM

22. One needn't be perfect to be enlightened.

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Response to Heddi (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 12:58 PM

24. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 10:10 PM

2. Heddi,

As we all know, there are many, many things "wrong" with our health care system here in the States. You, and those like you, are decidedly what's right with it. Thank you.

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Response to opiate69 (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 10:41 PM

3. Here here.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Heddi.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 11:08 PM

4. But don't you know? Atheists simply cannot console people.

 

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Response to laconicsax (Reply #4)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 11:12 PM

5. I will admit that some people are inconsolable

That's okay. We can pick our nose and we can pick our friends but we can't pick our patients. At least I hope that if there is a god that they'll see I'm treating people with kindness and respect not because it's gonna get me heaven points, but beacuse it's the right thing to do, it's part of the social contract of being on a planet with other human beings...you treat people good and nice because you just do. Not because it makes God happy.

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Response to Heddi (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 01:17 AM

7. ^^^^

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 01:12 AM

6. Let me reiterate: You're awesome. Just all around damned awesome.

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:06 AM

10. Amen to that!! n/t

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 01:24 AM

8. *hug* nt

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:08 AM

11. Thank you so much for sharing that.

I must have gotten some dust or something in my eye though as I was reading it, because as we all know, atheists don't have emotions since they can't see, hear, smell, touch, or taste them.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:25 AM

12. So who did you console the other 6 nights Mother Theresa?



You are a human of mercy....keep fighting the good fight, Heddi!

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 05:28 PM

13. Thank you, Heddi, for

being a good friend to Mary/Frank, and for telling us this poignant story.

Someone should speak to Fr. Prick's boss, the high priest, or whatever he's called, about Fr. Prick's meanness.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 07:23 PM

14. I'd have written the POS up

and yes, I wrote up asshole doctors as well as asshole religious people. Father Prick was incapable of being a hospital chaplain and should have been discharged and my writeup might be just the thing to get him out the door at last.

We had inhouse chaplains who worked the same 12 hour shifts as the rest of us did and the night chaplains were lovely people I had no qualms about calling. We were just lucky that way, I think.

There is no more inappropriate person to be around patients in the hospital than any professional who can't park his or her judgmental nature at the door before they go in.

Undoubtedly Father Prick has a great future in front of him in church hierarchy. Until then, somebody needs to have the courage to throw him out of his "consoling" business.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #14)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:18 PM

17. our hospital chaplain is a lovely woman who gave my dad so

much kindness and the rest of us too. She gave my mother and father hand knitted shawls that her friends and her knit while they pray for the health and happiness of whomever gets it. It was cremated with my dad and my mother's is here. That is what you need at your hospital.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 08:44 PM

15. Incredible story...I am also alone

with a cat. I feel for Frank/Mary because I understand. I was moved by your story and appreciate that you spent the time to write it down.

Too bad that there are many Fr. Pricks in this world. And I hate that he destroyed this man/woman's final days. At least I won't have to deal with that at the end of my time.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 09:24 PM

18. Thanks for this Heddi!

The thread that this is in relation to really bugged me. (More because a jury didn't see it as an attack.)

Your story gives me faith (sorry) that we are better than everyone thinks and you've given the ammunition to prove it.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 10:34 PM

20. Well Heddi, you pretty much destroyed that assertion that only chaplains can console.

No, you annihilated it and that bullshit with your heartfelt story. It's people like you that make staying here and having to deal with assholes disruptors like that worthwhile. My hats off to you, Heddi. Thank you for being such a wonderful human.

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 11:52 PM

21. We heathens can be kind-hearted souls

Great post, I hope it was at least somewhat cathartic. As an atheist I cannot imagine doing anything but assuring this poor soul that what they wish for at their end will be what awaits. And I would secretly wish it were true.



Julie

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Response to Heddi (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 12:37 AM

23. Words fail me (for once).

Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. You have a lot going on right now I know, aside from job stress. So you really don't need any shit from some Junior John Bircher.

Your story reminded me of that recent movie The Ledge (and this is from memory, but close).

The Xian and atheist characters are talking:

Xian Character: Last night I sat in the hospital with a 10-yr old boy who was dying from cancer. I told him Heaven was real, and he would see his Mom and Dad again in a happier place. I guess you would have told him all that was a lie, and he was just headed for a dark, cold hole in the ground.

Atheist Character: No. I would have told the kid exactly the same made-up, fairy-tale bullshit that you did.

This strikes home for me because I'm like Curmudgeoness, except for the cat. Now that you've confirmed some of my worst fears about hospitals, I'm sort of hoping I go Tango-Uniform at home, quietly ignored. The smell might be a real pain for the neighbors, though.

I've always suspected I'll die suddenly right in the middle of a good book. That's really going to piss me off.

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