Nurse Rachael (on left) and 15 other nurses joined Belinda Teh for the last leg of 'Belinda's Brave Walk'
Sixteen Perth nurses walked with Belinda Teh on the final day of her 4,500 km journey from Melbourne to Perth. During the morning many of the nurses shared stories about the 'bad deaths' they had witnessed. This is just one.
Nurse Rachael's Story
I looked after a patient in 2017; young, mid forties; who after exhausting all options was made palliative on a Monday. They had fought long and hard with their disease, and had spent many weeks, months really, on the ward.
I remember coming to work and finding out that status, relieved that it would soon be over. Two days passed, and I would end my shifts PRAYING that when I came back in the morning, they would have passed away. No combination of analgesia, or our best palliative nursing could ease their pain. It was a waiting game. I looked after them for two days, but then had two days off, exhausted, physically and mentally drained.
I returned to work at 7am only to discover that the patient only just passed away at 6am that morning. And I broke down. Yes, because of the death, but mostly because of how long and painful those 4 days had been.
As I cleansed the body, I wept with my colleagues, never getting to apologise to the patient for how brutal the longevity of their passing was. I felt I had failed as a nurse. I felt I had failed them as a patient. I wanted to do more. It still haunts me.
We need to honour and respect peoples lives, not remember their last, painful breaths with regret.
As nurses, we are taught to advocate for our patients. For our patient's right to autonomy, to encourage health awareness, education and informed consent. This is what happens when babies are born. We are taught to respect their choices, their wishes to the best of our abilities, acting in the best interests of that patient. Why is death any different?
I'm sure if I asked people here, "How would you like to die?" the answer would likely be, at home surrounded by family and friends, at peace. The WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 would allow this to become a reality. To be able to die with dignity.