Swish! The automatic doors closed; the darkness of the dimly-lit, octagonal room enveloped me.
I wasn’t alone; the intensive care unit was a beehive of activity. Unlike the rest of the staff, I was new to the ICU, and I didn’t like it.
I’m a Psych and Rehab nurse—if I wanted to face life and death every day, I would’ve chosen the ER.
At least there, I’d get a little crazy to balance out the acute MIs and broken bones.
Unlike most nurses, I prefer conflict and verbal jujitsu, not ventilators and trauma.
Nevertheless, my nursing preferences wouldn’t stop the destiny of the trauma train from bulling me over.
Death is never easy
Upon entering the octagon, I was directed to my left. The scene wasn’t pretty, pure humanity laid sprawled out before me in its wretchedness.
“What happened?” I asked.
“He was run over by a tractor!” someone barked.
The patient was dead. I missed the code. In all honesty, I was surprised he had even made it to the ICU.
His pelvis was crushed, his body broken. Blood meandered from his abdomen, coalescing with speckles of normal saline on the floor.
“Well, we should get him cleaned up.”
I paused for a second, just trying to take in the scene. Like always, witnessing death was humbling.
As I stared at his lifeless body, my mind’s eye envisioned him hours earlier: full of life, dreams for himself and his family still intact.
Now, everything he was and could have been was gone, the ripples of his legacy now skipping across the universe.
As we performed post-mortem care, we tilted him to the left, then the right, caring for him in death, much like we would have in life.
We gently wiped the blood leaching from the corners of his mouth, ears, and eyes.
We did the best we could, trying to make him look lively and somewhat reminiscent of his formal self.
Once we were done, we solemnly notified the family that he was ready, giving them one last informal opportunity to view his body, presenting them with merciless mortality and the unforgiving reality of the frailty of the human condition.
Now, back at the nurses’ station, I viewed the bewildered family stand by his bedside, some of them crying, some of them not.
I briefly pondered life, death, and the nature of it all.
I, like those before me throughout the annals of human history, introspectively inquired about the meaning of our existence.
Momentarily, I wondered about the nature of good and evil, asking myself the aged old adage: Why do bad things happen to good people?
And then, as quickly as I asked the question of myself, I dismissed it. I’ll never know. I’m not supposed to know.
The essence of the question was beyond human, beyond my comprehension.
Now, I thought, it’s time to get back to work.