1. Diggins, Kristene

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"Please come immediately to evaluate Ms. Warner; she is unresponsive!!" the nurse exclaimed as I did my morning rounds at the nursing home. With my stethoscope around my neck, I ran to Ms. Warner's room. On my way to her room, the nurse informed me that she was a do not resuscitate patient, so there would be no heroic attempts to resuscitate.


I will never forget what I saw when I walked into Ms. Warner's room. The first thing I noticed was a picture frame on the wall beside her bed. A beautiful little girl smiled at me from the frame. I later discovered that this was a picture of Ms. Warner's granddaughter.


Approaching the bed, I noticed Ms. Warner's rapid shallow breaths. She was gasping for air. An obvious rattle accompanied each attempt to breathe. I placed my stethoscope on her chest and tried to find a pulse. As I moved the stethoscope around, I noticed a small heart-shaped charm around her neck. The words on the charm were simple, but they told me much. Four little engraved words etched in a gold heart proclaimed "I love my mom." Ms. Warner was a mother dearly loved by her family. I wondered how many children she had. In that moment, I wanted to know everything about her.


I could not find a pulse. I held Ms. Warner's hands, and they felt icy cold. I realized that she was already somewhere between earth and eternity. As a new nurse practitioner, this was my first experience with a patient's imminent death, specifically when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was not possible. In those moments when I felt so helpless, I decided to hold Ms. Warner's hands firmly. Then, the Lord in his graciousness compelled me to whisper into her ear. In that moment, I remembered that hearing is the last human sense to cease when our bodies are failing. Holding her hands tightly, I whispered into her ear that she was not alone. I will never know if those words comforted her or whether she heard me. But I do know that whispering to her in those moments provided me with a sense of peace. I whispered her name several times in between her gasps for breath.


By the time the emergency medical technicians arrived to take her to the hospital, Ms. Warner had breathed her last. I had witnessed her last moments of life. I let go of her hands and walked slowly out of the room. As much as I felt that I had failed her, I knew it had been her time to go. Ms. Warner had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for years and had made it clear she wanted to go as peacefully as possible. As difficult as it was for me to face, I realized that the best I could do was hold her hand and hope that in some small sense I had offered her strength through God's presence within me. This is a difficult lesson to learn, specifically because I wanted to do something to save her life, to make things better.


In Ms. Warner's home-going I learned that sometimes doing nothing is the best gift we can offer our patients. I thank God that he reminded me of this in her last moments of life. Nurturing a person in his or her ailment does not always mean doing something to offer cure or relief. Nurturing can simply mean offering support in life's most fragile moments.


This caring nature is at the heart of nursing, and this support is best offered when we recognize our constant dependency on God. Only as we allow his strength to shine through us will we be equipped to seize the opportunities he grants us to be a source of strength for others. What a privilege to serve others and God in this way.