Breaking bad news…

No one taught me how to tell a relative that his dear one has died. I guess some things cannot be taught.

As a doctor, over time you will learn to recognize which patients are ‘bad’. When a patient wheels in, you look at the patient, his/her stats, and u realize that he/she is not going to survive for long.

So… we had one patient who was ‘bad' since she came to hospital. Old lady.. Had a lung infection.. Came drowsy.. Her blood gases showed that adequate oxygen was not reaching her body.. We intubated her, started her on treatment and then hoped for the best even though we realized that she was probably not going to make it.

What I was not prepared for was her husband.. Usually such patients are accompanied by irate relatives who will not accept that u are giving every possible treatment, will blame u for not giving enough ‘saline/glucose’ and create havoc if the patient expires.

When she came, I talked to her husband and explained about the prognosis of the patient. Somehow, he understood.

In the remaining days he would do everything that we asked him to, brought all the medicine promptly, asked about her wife’s condition, accepted it grimly. But what tore my heart was when he stood beside her wife everyday. There she lay, frail, with multiple tubes and lines coming out of her body, lifeless, attached to various monitors and ventilator... The longing in his eyes, his wish for her to survive was too much for me to bear. Every time I used to finish my shift and go.. I saw him sitting in front of the ICU pensive, with a vacant look, staring at the skies, probably praying, probably remembering the times he had spent with her.

When I told him finally that his wife was no more.. Came a heart wrenching cry that I will never forget in my entire life.

Nobody told me how to tell a relative that his near one has died. Even if they did, it would have been probably of no use.

May God grant him peace.

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