Loss and Dignity by Trish O’Hara Feb 2015

Blog by Trish O’Hara – Loss and Dignity

Having just lost someone so very dear to me – This blog is going to explore what really mattered at the end.

Watford General Hospital lives with complaint after complaint – as many of our hospitals do. But let me reflect on almost 13 hours there last week.
Firstly, the paramedics did everything they could – everything. On arrival to the hospital a scan was done immediately to see if the patient could be saved. She couldn’t. We were in the Acute Assessment Unit for a few hours – the privacy of a curtain that surrounded our total despair. We asked for all monitors to be removed – this was done immediately and without question. The noise and hubbub of the unit letting us know just how busy the staff were. And yet, they made sure they popped their head around the curtain to say they were trying to find a bed. The nurse making sure she found a priest for last rights. It was a vicar who arrived as the priest was unavailable – and gave heartfelt prayers after asking permission to do so and making sure he confirmed that a catholic priest was also on his way. I am an atheist, but the patient would need this rite, although she was not conscious at any point.

A bed was found on a ward – As soon as we arrived (there were 13 of us plus the patient), the ward said they would do everything they could to find a side room.4 around the bed rule was wavered but we kept it to 5 or 6 – all through the protected meal times. We asked for the patient to repositioned in the bed in order to help us see her more ‘asleep’. Nurses did this promptly. More hours of sitting with the patient in turn – the rest of us in a waiting area. Nurses bringing us tea and coffee often – showing us the kitchen area and telling us to help ourselves if we needed it more frequently.

The priest arrived for further last rites – where family quietly joined in the prayers. After which a side room was offered. The patient moved promptly to a room where we (all 13 of us) could remain until the end. The door of the ward is locked by now as it is very late – We came in and out to answer phones and get air – each and every time ringing the bell to re-enter. Each time a nurse asking us if we needed anything – bringing tea and coffee at perfect intervals.
At one point, a nurse saw me looking a little lost trying to find the way back to the side room. Before showing me the way, he asked if I needed a hug. I did and he hugged me. I shall never forget that hug.

At 3am the person died – peacefully. Nurses immediately came and offered their condolences. A particular nurse said to me that he would lay the person out and that he would do it with great kindness. I knew he would. We were not rushed home – nor expected to do anything except be there. Nurses bringing tea. This was a very busy Stroke Ward. Each and every member of staff with too much to do and yet each and every member of staff, including the porters, finding the time to care. To offer their support and to listen.

If we are looking for the definition of dignity – it is all right there. In every moment of this I found dignity – For my loved one and for us all.

Thank you to Watford General Hospital – and all who sail in her – A magnificent service with a culture of compassion and dignity.

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