Thursday, September 25, 2014

An EMT on what all dying patients think

I've been a critical care EMT for the past seven years in Suffolk County, New York. I've been a first responder in a number of incidents ranging from car accidents to Hurricane Sandy. ...

Having responded to many cases since then where patients were in their last moments and there was nothing I could do for them, in almost every case, they have all had the same reaction to the truth, of inner peace and acceptance. In fact, there are three patterns I have observed in all these cases.

The first pattern always kind of shocked me. Regardless of religious belief or cultural background, there's a need for forgiveness. Whether they call it sin or they simply say they have a regret, their guilt is universal. I had once cared for an elderly gentleman who was having a massive heart attack. As I prepared myself and my equipment for his imminent cardiac arrest, I began to tell the patient of his imminent demise. He already knew by my tone of voice and body language. As I placed the defibrillator pads on his chest, prepping for what was going to happen, he looked me in the eye and said, "I wish I had spent more time with my children and grandchildren instead of being selfish with my time." Faced with imminent death, all he wanted was forgiveness.

The second pattern I observe is the need for remembrance. Whether it was to be remembered in my thoughts or their loved ones', they needed to feel that they would be living on. There's a need for immortality within the hearts and thoughts of their loved ones, myself, my crew, or anyone around. Countless times, I have had a patient look me in the eyes and say, "Will you remember me?"

The final pattern I observe always touched me the deepest, to the soul. The dying need to know that their life had meaning. They need to know that they did not waste their life on meaningless tasks.
--Matthew O'Reilly, TED@NYC, on the universal desire for forgiveness, meaning, and immortality, i.e. what Christianity offers. HT: PW