Model stories written by young professionals/students.
Life: One Big Waiting Room
Every place we go, we usually are going to have to wait for something. Wait for our Starbucks order, wait for the bus, wait for our name to be called at the doctor’s office. This is just our way of life, and we are pretty accustomed to it. If you think about it, we are always waiting for something. When the time comes, one of those things is death. I don’t mean to sound morbid, it’s just a fact. We’re here, and we’re living, and we’re just waiting until the end. It’s something that most people don’t think about, until they are nearing the end of their own life. Most people who are nearing the end of life and are waiting to die don’t usually have to wait in an actual “waiting room”. They remain in the comfort of their homes, or a nursing home surrounded by loved ones. My volunteer experience this week at End-of-Life Care opened my eyes to the reality of waiting to die.
When I walked into End-of-Life Care, it was very bright, clean and homey. The “waiting room” (if you can even call it that) was very small, with about 10 chairs and a desk where the receptionist was sitting. There wasn’t a single patient in the waiting room, or the entire facility for that matter. It seemed as if this was only really an office building for all of the employees to work in and hold meetings. Turns out, this is not actually the place that End-of-Life Care patients are cared for, so I don’t even know why they had a waiting room in the first place.
I met up with a social worker when I arrived whom I traveled around with on some patient visits. She was very kind and taught me a lot about her role as a social worker and the kinds of patients she works with. End-of-Life Care takes care of people that have 6 months or less to live. Most of the time, the patients are 65+ years old, but there are some younger patients that they care for also. When a person gets so ill that they can no longer take care of themselves, and have that prognosis of 6 months or less to live, they really just want to die in a comfortable place, surrounded by loved ones, and End-of-Life Care helps them and their families through that process.
I visited a woman with the social worker I was shadowing who was a liver cancer patient. She had been healthy all of her life until her cancer diagnosis, which was too late to treat successfully. This lady was very ill, she hadn’t eaten or had any fluids in several days and she was in a sort of coma. She was completely unresponsive, and they had to tell her husband that she probably wouldn’t make it through the weekend, but they would just have to wait and see. This was something that really opened my eyes. I’ve experienced the death of loved ones before, but I never realized just how much waiting there was involved in the process. Waiting for vitals to get worse, waiting for the heart to stop beating, waiting for the last breath to be taken. It can happen at any point in time to any person, and whether we realize it or not, we are all dying. We will pass on someday, and until then, all we do is wait.
My first experience with End-of-Life Care was one that I will remember, because it was my first experience shadowing this type of care. I have a new perspective on waiting, and that is to try not to. I think that every day you are given life, you should cherish it. Don’t focus on the future, live in the now, because the more you focus on the future and the more time you spend waiting on things to happen, the more you will realize on your death bed, that your whole life has been one big waiting room.