Updated: Apr 6
My patient died. They died because of coronavirus.
People believe we can save everyone, sometimes I even believe we can too. But the truth is we can't. Sometimes we can't keep you breathing. Sometimes we can't stop you bleeding. Sometimes we can't keep your heart beating.
There is only so much medicine can do. Once your body is tired, it's hard for it to keep going. The problem with coronavirus, it really takes it out of your immune system. And just as you start to get better, BAM! you get pneumonia. Your immune system is already down, and you still have to keeping fighting. It's bad enough if you are fit and young, you may just make it, but if you are already weak because of age or a long-term condition... well... we've got a fight on our hands.
My patient's heart was knackered. Knackered from trying to pump blood around their body. Knackered from trying to get oxygen to where it was needed. Knackered from trying to supply their body with the energy it so desperately needed. It was kinder to stop.
A lot of people cannot understand what we mean by this. Aren't you just giving up? No. Far from it. We did everything we could, and I mean everything. It is called intensive care for a reason, it is intense. The care we provide is hard and aggressive, it needs to be in order to save lives. If I am honest, I would not wish it upon anyone.
Despite this, it doesn't always work. Sometimes our best isn't enough. Therefore sometimes it is kinder to just stop. And that was best for my patient. I strongly believe everybody deserves what we call a "good" death. People deserved a pain free death. People deserve a death surrounded by family and loved ones. They don't need their last moment to be me jumping up and down on their chest doing CPR. For some people this is the right thing to do.
Patients with coronavirus are not allowed visitors, due to the risk of transmission, and the fact their family members are usually in self-isolation anyway. So there is the sad reality these patients will die without family around them. Note I say family. Lots reports say patients with Corona Virus die alone. That's not true. We are there, us healthcare professionals. We are their holding their hand till the last breath. We are there telling them they are loved. We are there telling them their family will miss them. We are their telling them they are not alone.
In hindsight, I am glad this particular patient passed away about a week ago, at the start of this crisis. It was before visitors were completely banned from the hospital. So despite it being against our advice, my patient's wife came in. Of course she would. You would. I would. She donned the PPE and walked into the room like a trooper. As I withdrew care, she held their hand and told them they were safe. When the patient passed she cried, and I cried with her. I know she and the patient were so lucky to have that moment, as so many now probably won't get that.
But please know this. I will be there. I will be holding your hand. I will tell you, you are safe.
You won't be alone.