86: Body, Mind and Spirit

86: Body, Mind and Spirit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Body, Mind and Spirit

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.

~Sophocles

I found her husband in a chair with his upper body draped over the bed, his head on the mattress next to hers. I unintentionally startled him when I walked into the room and apologized.

“I’m Doug, Kay’s nurse tonight,” I said softly. “I’m going to do her assessment and give the scheduled medications. We’re trying to stabilize her heart rate and blood pressure.”

Kay was just twenty-six, with multiple myeloma, now on a ventilator and heavily sedated to manage her pain and restlessness.

As I performed my routine duties, I noticed Mike was obviously fatigued and the redness around his eyes proved he’d been crying. He had that perplexed look on his face, the one that’s apparent on those who recognize the outcome for their loved ones isn’t going to be what they hoped.

They had been married for less than two years and had no children. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. A part of me wished that a child had been born to serve as a living reminder of their love. Another part of me thought that in the absence of a child, it might be easier for him to start over when the time was right. I felt the loneliness and sheer devastation he was feeling and wished there was something I could do to make a difference. But how could I?

Body, mind and spirit, I reminded myself. These were the interdependent domains toward which I had always directed my work. So, when I no longer could affect healing of the body, I focused more sharply on the mind and spirit.

Also, I saw family as an extension of the patient, a reflection of the patient’s identity, his or her feelings, emotions, values and beliefs. Family, however defined, became the voice of the patient and served as a barometer of acceptance.

The energy in the room changed as Kay’s fate became increasingly clearer. Mike had recently appeared more confused, distressed and detached. Then it occurred to me. They likely hadn’t slept apart since they were married. So, after confirming this, I asked, “Mike, would you be comfortable sleeping with her now, keeping her safe, warm and connected to you?”

He looked stunned.

“I’ll handle the logistics, manage the equipment and fend off the naysayers.”

“Yes. Please,” he said.

Within an hour of togetherness in their bed, there was yet another change in the energy in the room. This time there was peace and love. Kay’s restlessness significantly diminished and that night she required fifty percent less sedation. She had fewer episodes of hypertension. Mike rested too, admitting a profound connectedness to her, emotionally and spiritually. The end no longer felt as cold, foreign or unwelcomed.

With this intentional caring of body, mind and spirit, the healing had begun.

~Doug Dascenzo

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