No Words

Everything will be alright.

It’s one of those phrases people say in times of difficulty.  They might touch your hand as they say it to help you believe them.  It’s a phrase I’ve heard coming out of my own mouth from time to time.  Sometimes to a friend.  Sometimes to a stranger.  But it’s a phrase that isn’t always applicable.

I recently lost a patient.  He was young.  Too young.  He had a ruptured aortic aneurysm.  His son saw it happen.  His dad called for help before he slumped to the floor.  They rushed him to the hospital, where I met him and his mother at the bedside of my patient.  They were all praying together.  A prayer I was familiar with.

The nurses and doctors were frantically getting IVs started, ordering blood, calling the surgeon.  Everyone did everything they could.  And there I was.  Just standing there.  Nothing for me to do.  And I looked across the bed at the patient’s family.  I wanted to tell them that everything will be alright.  But I couldn’t.  Because I knew it was a lie.  There were no words I could say in that moment.

Later that day the patient died.  And I couldn’t help but get angry.  He was too young to die.  He had no warning.  He had a family.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t alright.

These situations are the worst in medicine.  I can kind of justify things in my mind if a little old lady dies at the ripe old age or 95.  She was old and old people die.  I can kind of justify it when the drug addict overdoses and then drives his car into a tree.  He brought this on himself.  He did something that caused his death.

But when a young patient drops dead out of nowhere, having done nothing wrong – it just doesn’t sit well with me.  And that patient’s death didn’t sit well with me.

Neither did the death of a young mother of three who dropped dead of a brain bleed a few days before.   As we told her husband that she was brain-dead, I wanted to say that everything will be alright.  But it wouldn’t.  It wasn’t fair.  And there were no words that I could say that would make it okay.

Because sometimes there are no words.

About emilyehoward

My name is Emily, and I am a Hospitalist in Nebraska. I live with my husband and three beautiful daughters. I hope you enjoy my blog!
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2 Responses to No Words

  1. Yes…sometimes there are just no words. But whether you know it or not, your presence there with them at that time means something. I’ll be keeping you and the patient’s family in my thoughts. 🙂

  2. Maybe it’s not okay at the moment, but it will be OK, some semblance of normalcy begins to develop, but with a gap, a missing piece, something that you stumble around, and sometimes fall into. It hurts, but the hurt does dull. Dull like the word “OK.”

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