Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dealing with the loss... when death is no where to be seen.

The loss of a loved one is never easy. 
It never seems right nor fair.  
However when death follows a long arduous trial by a disease such as cancer, emphysema, heart disease, or kidney disease... it seems almost a welcome end to the suffering, an end to the pain.
Similarly, when death follows from a massive trauma in which our loved one is maimed and disfigured... death brings relief and the knowledge that no indignity will further disfigure the beauty of our loved one.
But what happens when death is rapid, and yet nowhere to be seen?
What happens when our mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, uncle or other relative lays in the bed on a ventilator... pristine and beautiful, body untouched by the ravages of disease nor the disfigurement of injury?
Recently I cared for two patients, a young man and a young woman who both suffered hypoxic encephalopathy... no trauma marred their bodies... no disease ravaged their lives... the circumstances where at once rapid and fatal, but through our technology, we were able to restore cardiac function.
It fell to me to explain to the family of each of these patients that your son... that your mother... who looks so beautiful and pristine save for the tube coming out of her mouth, is dead.
No shadow over her bed. 
No scars to make his death heroic.
No epic story to make us rejoice at the release of death.
Just two perfect bodies, devoid of the "person" who used to inhabit them, laying in the bed.
And two beautiful families dealing with death... when death is nowhere to be seen.

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