Nov. 14, 2017

Its a Dying Shame!

We’re taught in nursing school not to make pie crust promises (easily made/easily broken). For instance, we do not tell patients they will be cured of cancer or some other ailment because, in fact, there is no way of knowing for sure. Having said that, I’ve always kept that in mind when handling family members.

I was rather taken off guard one afternoon when a woman approached me and asked about one of my patients, Minnie Atkinson. “I’m her daughter, Linda,” she explained, “I’d like to know how my mother is doing.”

At the time, I had been working there almost five years and I had never, not once, ever seen this woman before much less even heard of her visiting Minnie. I pulled Minnie’s chart and glanced over it before returning to the front desk and answering.

“She’s doing well,” I answered honestly. “There hasn’t been much change.”

“Is she going to die?” Linda asked.

“Excuse me?”

“We’re planning a trip to Ireland,” the daughter explained. “We wanted to be sure she isn’t going to die while we’re gone.”

I was so shocked. I stammered a minute and then answered, “I don’t know. I mean, we’re all going to die at some point, but as far as saying she’s going to die today … I don’t think so. Only God knows that plan.”

“Well, we’re going to be gone for a month and it costs a lot of money; too much money to fly over there and then to have to turn around and fly back because she died.” Linda stated quite coarsely.

I silently thought of ugly names to call her and then said, “Go ahead and enjoy Ireland. We’ll take care of Minnie.”

Before leaving, Linda came back to me and asked for a phone book. While looking up funeral homes, she asked which funeral home did the nursing home most commonly call. I told her it was Goldfinch and then watched as she called them to make last minute arrangements for her mother, in the event she died before they returned from overseas.

The next day, the boss called me into the nursing office. The Director of Nurses asked, “Did you tell Minnie Atkinson’s daughter that Minnie was going to die and had her call Goldfinch to make final arrangements?”

“That depends,” I answered shocked and aggravated at the lie. “Do you seriously think I have taken a complete leave of my senses?”

My boss chuckled and then said, “Linda said they were going to cancel their trip to Ireland because you told her Minnie was going to die and even told them to find a funeral home before they left.”

Fortunately for me, my boss knew this woman and was aware of how she would twist things around. Sad to say, Minnie passed away about a year later, but at least Linda got to go to Ireland first.