Passing Pauses: Reflections on a Single Death in a New York City ER

When patient M.M. died during her shift, Emergency Room Nurse Laura Ng didn’t feel much at the moment.  Only after she had a day off did she have a chance to do some justice to that death. Of the accounts out there about the life of medical workers in COVID-19 battle zone in New York City Hospitals, this piece by Laura Ng has stuck out in my mind.  We see so many figures and statistics about cases and deaths.  Those numbers can blur us to the fact that it is individuals who are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and grandmothers and grandfathers that are dying.

M.M. was an 87 year old patient who Ng knew wouldn’t survive.  The best the ER department could do was make her comfortable until inevitable.  Her family had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) order, which Ng says is the kindest thing that they could have done.

Ng wishes that M.M. had a death with more dignity.  What came to mind to me is that we probably have little control over the time of our deaths, but we have some control over our lives – make sure we live life fully, say the things we want to say and do the things we want to do, as we never know when the end might come.  What also came to mind is the need for Advanced Directives.  We might not know the time of our deaths, but we can set some directions how we want to die.  Make your wishes known should you be in a situation where resuscitation is a question – best to document that and make it known to your loved ones.  Forcing them to decide would be a cruel addition to learning about your own impending demise.

That’s my short summary of the story and some lessons that come to mind. It’s better read to read the whole thing – a short nine minute read that is, in my opinion, worth your time.

(h/t:  MS)
(photo credit:  homieg340 under CC 3.0

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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