March, 1979 (I was still single)
I remember when I returned to work on a new ward from one of my maternity leaves. There was a young man who was about 18 suffering from Duchenes muscular dystrophy. I had never nursed him, in fact I didn’t even know him. The nurses on 5F knew him well and had been treating him for various complications for quite a few years. The MD had wrecked his body and was slowly but surely destroying his ability to use his respiratory muscles. He apparently got so bad that he had to be transferred to ICU, because he could not breath on his own. Michael was a favourite of one of my colleagues, Jessie. Jessie was a registered nursing assistant. She was perhaps in her early 50’s when I first met her. She and her hubby had emigrated to Canada from Scotland when she was only 17….. and she still had her Scottish accent. Jessie had a wonderful sense of humour and a canny, motherly personality that appealed to our young patients. Most of the other staff loved her too. She visited Jason in ICU every day she worked, as did other 5F nurses.
I always listened with interest when my colleagues would report on Michael’s progress, which sadly continued to deteriorate. I wasn’t back more than a week when I heard that Michael was being given continuous IV morphine to make him more comfortable. The poor young man was on a ventilator and it was obvious that he would never come off it to breath on his own again. He had the more severe form of MD and was never going to get better. A day or 2 later, Jessie told me that Michael and his parents were now being asked subtly about a ‘do not resuscitate’ order. She told me that as she was stroking his forehead, he lifted his heavy hand and put it to his throat in a slash movement. She said that he had made his wishes known …. that he wanted to let go. His poor parents were in agreement with Michael and so he was ‘snowed under’ slowly with morphine until he passed away. Many of the 5F nurses went to his funeral.
Jessie unfortunately is no longer with us. I was told last year when I visited my former colleagues at HSC that she passed away from a cancer in the early millennium. God bless her. She helped so many hapless little souls during their suffering.