As an ICU nurse, David Fogarty is used to doing all he can to keep his patients alive. But when he was asked recently to help a patient face death "on his terms," Fogarty experienced an entirely different way of putting the needs of his patients first.
It started one Saturday morning earlier this year, Fogarty tells us. He wasn't scheduled to work, but "came in extra to help out my unit." Early in the shift, the family of one of his patients came to him with a request. The patient had just days to live, according to his doctors. Would it be possible, the patient and his family wondered, to get the man out of the hospital that day "to die peacefully at home"? The move from ICU to home would be a tall order, but it was one Fogarty was determined to fulfill. He called social worker Kathleen Hines, and together they made a few calls — to Gold Cross Ambulance, the Mayo Clinic pharmacy, several hospice agencies, and more. Fogarty says an entire team leaped into action. The planning and arrangements made for "a busy day," he says, but that afternoon, "this wonderful man" was on his way home.
That's where the story ended for Fogarty. Until a few weeks later, when a young woman arrived at his nursing unit. Initially, Fogarty "couldn't quite place her." But then she handed Fogarty a card and began telling him "the end of a story." The woman was a daughter of Fogarty's patient, and had come back to "personally thank me and the team," he says, for helping get her father back home, where he'd spent precious hours in his own bedroom, surrounded by familiar sights and the people he loved. He "passed away peacefully" that evening, "surrounded by his loving and supportive family," just hours after arriving home.
The patient's daughter also gave Fogarty a photo of a sunset — the last one her father saw before passing away. The picture was taken from her father's bedroom. Just visible in the frame is a dock where he had "fished from with all his kids and grandkids." Fogarty set the image as the screensaver on his computer to remind him "how important it is to follow the patient's last wishes."
Fogarty tells us he was "honored to be a part of this patient and family's journey." And he says "knowing that there were so many people willing to go out of their way" for the patient was "really cool." The experience reminded him that although "we are such a large organization," people still care deeply "about the individual patient."
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