On Tuesday, R was admitted to Sanford's 1CU. She was found at her apartment, unresponsive. When paramedics arrived, it took over 15 minutes to revive her. At that point, most of us knew the outcome; however, all of us were hopeful we were wrong.
On Wednesday, I drove from Sioux Falls to Fargo to hold the hand of a woman who meant the world to me. I met R nearly 23 years ago. I was five, her son, was 2. My mom was one of her best friends and R quickly became a second mom to me. Our families grew together, fought together, and loved together. We experienced birthdays, holidays, and graduations. On Tuesday, we also experienced one of the greatest tragedies our families have ever endured.
As I approached her hospital room with her brother by my side, my emotions were on high alert. I wanted to know why this happened. I needed to know when she would be herself again. Why was she still on life support? What was the extent of her brain damage? How many organs have failed? Why wasn’t hospital staff doing more? As I walked into that room, all those questions seemed incredibly insignificant as I saw how beautiful she looked.
Troy provided an update. No new changes. She was on a consistent dose of pain medications to ensure her comfort. He was certain she had an anoxic brain injury. I chose to ignore what was being said, and instead chose to hear that she would make a full recovery. I believed that a miracle would happen. I certainly thought that as I squeezed her hand, she would squeeze back.
My family spent the next day in the waiting room and at our church. We hugged, we laughed, we cried, we prayed. As the night came to a close, her family made the decision no other, father sister brother, son, or daughter should ever have to make. The decision was made to take her off life support.
On Thursday, I left the church and knew I had to head home. I needed to return to Sioux Falls and away from the pain that Friday would bring; but first, I needed to see her again. I needed to hold her; I needed to tell her how much I loved her. I couldn't possibly leave being angry at someone who, for so long, meant everything to me.
On Thursday, I made my way to R’s hospital room. This time, I was alone. As I entered the room, Troy was briefing others on her status. It was shift change and I listened intently as he described her breathing, the medications, the blood draws. I listened for any sign that she was recovering, a sign of hope.
As the conversation ended, I rattled off a list of questions, all of which were answered with grace, honesty, and warmth. Troy told me that the R we knew and loved was gone. Her organs were failing. He wasn’t going to decrease her pain medications; his job was to keep her comfortable and he was going to do just that.
I told him the family's decision to take R off life support, and tears fell from Troy's eyes. I can't imagine this was the first time a decision like this was made. However, the emotions expressed by her nurses were sincere and to be honest, comforting. As I held R's hand, kissed her face, and cried, I felt hopeless. When I turned around, Beth was by my side with the warmest embrace. When I walked into that room, I was alone. At that moment, Troy and Beth made me feel far from that.
Thank you Troy, for caring for R. Thank you for graciously dealing with an angry and entitled 19-year-old on Tuesday. She yelled, you listened. You dealt with a constant swarm of individuals in and out of Room380. You answered the same questions time and time again. While any other person would have been irritated that we weren't letting you do your job, and instead, questioning what you were doing, you were always kind. Thank you for the tears and the hugs. Most of all, thank you for keeping R alive long enough for us to say our goodbyes. Without you, we wouldn't have had the closure we needed.
You are truly an asset to Sanford, the nursing profession, and the community. I will forever be thankful that R spent her last days in your care. You showed us love, compassion, and professionalism; for that, and so much more, I am thankful.