1 of 1000 DOCUMENTS
The New York Times
September 9, 2008 Tuesday
Late Edition - Final
Perhaps Death Is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life
is a staff nurse at a hospital in Pennsylvania.
Section F; Column 0; Science Desk; CASES; Pg. 1
At my job, people die.
That's hardly our intention, but they die nonetheless.
Usually it's at the end of a long struggle -- we have done everything modern medicine can do and then some, but
we can't save them. Some part of their body, usually their lungs or their heart or their liver, has become too frail to
function. These are the ''good deaths,'' the ones where the family is present and knows what to expect. Like all deaths,
these deaths are difficult, but they are controlled, unsurprising, anticipated.
And then there are the other deaths: quick and rare, where life leaves a body in minutes. In my hospital these
deaths are ''Condition A's.'' The ''A'' stands for arrest, as in cardiac arrest, as in this patient's heart has all of a sudden
stopped beating and we need to try to restart it.
I am a new nurse, and recently I had my first Condition A. My patient, a particularly nice older woman with lung
cancer, had been, as we say, ''fine,'' with no complaints but a low-grade fever she'd had off and on for a couple of days.
She had come in because she was coughing up blood, a problem we had resolved, and she was set for discharge that
After a routine assessment in the morning, I left her in the care of a nursing student and moved on to other
patients, thinking I was going to have a relatively calm day. About half an hour later an aide called me: ''
need you in 1022.''
I stopped what I was doing and walked over to her room. The nurse leaving the room said, ''She's spitting up
blood,'' and went to the nurses' station to call her doctor.
Inside the room I found my patient with blood spilling uncontrollably from her mouth and nose. I remembered to