You never know what’s going to roll through the front doors of the ER. But just about once a shift you see a face that makes you drop everything you’re doing, if not, that person was going to die.
Today I saw that face. It was pale and gaunt. Death was knocking at his door…and looked like it’d been knocking for a while. He was lifted from his chair and set on a gurney. His breaths were few and his heart rate was dropping. He was dying.
His body ravaged with cancer there were no heroic measures to be taken. We gave him more oxygen. A simple mask filled and placed over his mouth.
His lover waits. Her eyes were filled with a love and sadness you just don’t see everyday. My heart broke for her. For this was a man losing a fight and she has been by his side for every moment of his success and failure.
My heart broke for him. His body, now a shell of the man he once was. Unable to hold this woman, and take care of her like any man in love would want to do.
It was only a little oxygen. Placed in a meager attempt to provide some comfort. I didn’t expect to see his blood pressure rise and heart race. The little color he had returned to his cheeks. I did practically nothing, but for right now, he was no longer dying.
He responds to her voice. His crystal blue eyes, shining with a renewed chance at life. Her happiness rolled down her cheeks and radiated with a smile you couldn’t help but return.
Later, from across the room, she caught my attention. She glanced at his monitor, at him, and then back at me. Her happy smile wasn’t just hers, it was for him too. I gave her a wink, because in that moment I knew we understood each other completely.
This man is dying. But not today. She could love him just a little bit longer. High school sweet hearts, together, just a little bit longer.