Bubbles

Suffering at the End of Life

Marianne Matzo, PhD, FAAN – Podcast Host

I was watching my husband fish while I scrolled through Facebook and came across the ten-minute video of George Floyd laying on the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck. As I watch I found myself getting sick to my stomach, wishing someone could do something to make it stop. I heard the bystanders advocating for Mr. Floyd and knew that any action they would take to intervene could put themselves in a dangerous situation. I wondered what I would do if I was there.

As a former hospice nurse and advanced practice palliative care nurse practitioner I know what I would do if someone I was caring for were crying and saying they could not breathe. Not being able to take a breath is one of the most distressful symptoms to have and one of the hardest symptoms to watch. We have medications that help alleviate those symptoms. I am a Reiki Master and use healing energy to help calm people until the medications take effect. I can say I have never left anyone who had difficulty breathing until their breathing was managed and they were comfortable.

So, watching Mr. Floyd was distressful to me on many levels. It was a horrible feeling to watch him suffer and have no one able to help him. When he called for his mom, my heart sank. I have been with many people at the end of their lives and have heard them call for their mother. I have never heard anyone call for their dad (which is not to say they do not, only that I have not heard it). Hearing him call for his mom while he was unable to move or breathe, and bleeding from his nose was a heart wrenching experience.

Our work at every1dies.org is focused on education about our mortality. We believe knowledge is power, and with that power we can make informed choices about our lives and end of life. Mr. Floyd, in that last hour of his life, sounded to me like he was suffering. Not being able to breathe is suffering. We have it in our power as a humane society that people not suffer. Yes, everyone dies, but we can ensure people are not suffering while doing so.

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Further reading

Episode 47: Caregiver Grief and Burnout

Caring for the dying or critically ill can cause significant distress for health care providers, but even more so for family members in the role as a caregiver. Marianne shares about the complex challenges facing caregivers and ways to cope.

My Guardian Angel

We've had three interviews with Stevan Lemke about his journey with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis - a lung disease that required a transplant. Stevan shares with us about his unusual inspiration to make a life change.

Episode 46: Left-sided Strokes

A stroke is an injury to the brain caused by a change in blood supply, such as from a blood clot or burst in a vessel that feeds the brain. Learn about left-sided strokes and the impact it can have on the body - physically, cognitively and...

Episode 45: Research Updates

What lifestyle choices increase your risk for chronic disease? To answer that we take a look at findings from the Nurse's Health Studies, which has 280,000 participants, many who started in 1976, and is now in its third generation.

street leading off to silhouettes of trees and dark unknown

Episode 44: “Mom’s Assisted Death”

In this episode we talk about how a daughter responds to her mother's search for assisted death. Her story is an informative one if you or a family member are considering assisted death.

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