i will never forget the morning ms. p died. it was like any other day, but it was somehow so different. i went in to round on her at about 4:30am (as i normally did), and she was lying on her side, awake.
"how did you sleep?" i asked her, apologizing as i always did for the early hour.
"not well." she looked different. she was breathing fast. "help me sit up a little, will ya?" she reached for my arm. i helped her sit up in bed as i counted her respiratory rate. it was too fast. we both half-glanced at the infomercial blaring on the tv. it seemed so irrelevant and intrusive.
"any pain?" i placed my stethoscope on her chest.
"nah, sweetie. just trouble breathin'." she was sitting up in bed now, but every muscle in her body looked uncomfortably drawn.
"try to rest, ms. p. i'll be back with one of your doctors."
my resident went to see her. she was a 50yr old lady with known metastatic cancer; our plan was to continue to follow her symptoms and offer any comfort care we could.
around 7am, i went to the operating room to help with a case. we'd been operating for about an hour when we received a call to the OR - ms. p had died. just like that. gone. i was scrubbed in to the operation and my entire job as a medical student consisted of cutting suture and retracting... i was so distracted for the next 10min i had to be reminded to cut.
sigh. her time was coming sooner or later... it was just hard for me in my small understanding of mortality to experience sooner. but here i am. and there she is -- in a better place.