Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dog People

I've taken the following story from another journal & hoping Nora won't mind.  It was very touching.  There are some out there that will truly understand it & there are some that just won't get it...but I wanted to share...

Dog People
There are many different people in this world; for example there are dog people, cat people, and non-animal people. If you are in the latter category, this story may not be for you. This story is for the people who understand that families come in many different forms
with many different types of family members; who believe a dog is not property you own, but are a component of the family unit.

I walked into SICU at about 0800 on a day that seemed destined to be very gloomy. Like many RNs, I have two careers. I am a staff RN on NSCU and I am also a Procurement Transplant Coordinator (PTC) for One Legacy, our area's Organ Procurement Organization.
On this particular day I wore the hat of PTC when I was called to go to SICU to check on a referral.

In bed 22 I found a 22 year old who was in a horrible car accident and was now showing clinical signs of brain death. While I was completing my assessment on the unit I ran into Rebecca, RN and Chris, MD, who informed me of another patient on the unit who may be considered a potential organ/tissue donor.   In bed 24 there was a man in his seventies who was suffering from end stage liver and kidney failure. He was admitted several days prior and had been alert and awake, with esophageal bleeding. Eventually he became confused, disoriented, obtunded, and finally needed to be intubated.
Before he was intubated he had one last wish; he turned to Dr. Chris and said,  "Please let me see my dog before I die". When Dr. Chris relayed his request to me, I was truly rocked by the depth of the tie that bound him to his pet.

Being an animal person, I wondered if only dog/cat people can understand this man's wish. I have told this story to many people and I can always realize when I am telling it to someone who doesn't have an animal as a part of their family. First I get the "blank face" stare while their eyes gloss over. At that moment I get the sense they are going over their grocery list in their head and not listening to me. Other times I get the "It's just a dog!" routine. It didn't matter to this patient that it "was just a dog"; this was his family…literally, his only family.
He had two close friends who visited him daily and one distant niece who never called back to the hospital to make decisions regarding his care.

Sometimes, your friends may be closer to you than your own family. Rebecca was told by the friends that they were watching the patient's dog and that the dog seemed depressed; not eating, and needing his owner. They said that his dog had been there for him when his wife died. He rarely left his master's side.

Later that day I was called back to SICU. Upon my arrival, I ran into the usual suspects. Dr. Chris and Rebecca were there to give me the latest updates on the three patients who were referred as potential organ/tissue donors. Rebecca also gave me an update on her patient in bed 24. It seems that at around 1500, Dr. Chris suggested that his friends bring in the dog to see the patient and fulfill his last wish. This man was now on two vasopressors and just possibly would not make it through the night.
Around 1600 the two friends walked into the SICU. One of the men was carrying a small Lhasa Apso dog. This was a man who had a tough exterior, and despite his grand appearance (which included a Harley Davidson shirt and several tattoos) he obviously suffered from a broken heart, for his eyes were filled with tears as he marched towards bed 24. As the two friends entered the room, Rebecca cleaned off the bedside table and pulled it next to the bed; it was a perfect perch for the small dog. The patient laid there in a coma, unable to respond, as all three of his closest buddies sat with him to say goodbye.

When I first strolled on to SICU that morning I had no idea what a moving experience my day would turn out to be. As an involved staff member at any hospital you will get to know the people you work closely with very well. It is natural to become "in tune" to other team member's emotions. By the end of this day I could read the compassion and concern on my co-workers faces. SICU had had a difficult and emotional day; three patients became "Withdrawal of Care" status and would expire by the next morning.

Despite this demanding day I noticed that the staff in SICU took time to comfort each other even after they each were emotionally drained from these sad cases. This level of peer support is very hard to achieve and maintain, and it shows what a strong team they have. The staff in SICU demonstrated an example of how to do things right; they weren't required to fulfill a dying man's last wish.
He was in a coma and wouldn't know the difference right?
That did not matter to them; all it took was one doctor, one nurse, and a unit filled with compassion to do the right thing and simply allow a patient to be with his dog one last time.


1 comment:

tendernoggle said...

You know...I lost my husband to a  a massive heart attack in JAn of 2006 and My world came to an end as I knew it...My little chihuahuas have been by my side ever since then and I do not know what I would have done had it not been for them..and their endless love for me...My husband use to sleep with the little girl chihuahua in his arms and the day he died...well that night when I went to lay down on our bed...that little girl chihuahua crwled up on mu stomach and would not budge...and ever since then she will not let anyone near me...Seems she has taken over my husband's job of protecting me...
I know you still miss your dog...And I know he was like family to you too...I am sorry you had to lose him...God bless you hon...
Love ya,