It was an ordinary day at work. The list of patients to care for
was long, and each individual was extremely sick. This was not
unusual for our intensive care unit... it seemed to be just
another ordinary day.
A respiratory therapist named Karen was assigned to assist with
end-of-life care for a 92 yr old man who made a conscious
decision to discontinue all life saving measures. When Karen
entered the room she began the technical work to fulfill the
patient's stated desires. More than that, she realized that this
was not just "another thing to do", but that compassionate whole
person care would need to be at its peak in this particular case.
As God would have it, Karen paused, looked the elderly gentleman
in his eyes and asked, "Are you ready to move forward with this
(meaning cessation of life sustaining care)?" The patient was
sure that he wanted to move ahead and the conversation became
spiritual in nature. The elderly man expressed his disbelief in
God but admitted that he had a prior church experience that dated
back to his military days. They then began to talk about Jesus.
Although the patient had prefaced his thoughts with spiritual
doubt, he continued with the dialogue.
At some timely point in the discussion the therapist placed her
hand over his and simply said, "God loves you so much." She
explained the simplicity of having eternal life by faith in the
Son of God, and described how easy it really is to be forgiven
for past sins. She then asked if the patient would like to speak
further with a hospital chaplain. He was noncommittal, but the
employee had a strong sense that something very deep had
transpired within the patient's spirit. The discussion had indeed
made a difference in his life.
After leaving the patient alone for a brief period of time he
summoned her to return to his room by waving at her from his bed.
When she responded to his call he said, "I think I will see the
chaplain after all…please be sure to tell the nurse also." The
response was immediate from both the respiratory therapist and
the RN in charge of his care.
When Chaplain Les arrived at the bedside, he too could sense that
something significant was happening at a very deep spiritual
level. The patient was clear in his request to continue the prior
spiritual discussion. Les was able to clarify what the patient
had just learned about grace, and then read Romans 8:38 & 39
for him. The chaplain went on to extend the invitation once again
to have his sins forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ and to receive
the gift of eternal life. The patient verbalized his belief and a
prayer was said to confirm that decision. A personal friend was
also at the bedside as witness to this event and was asked by the
chaplain to read other scripture passages to the patient.
As per the patient's decision, all life supporting medical care
was discontinued, and within the hour this 92- year old man's
life was ended. All who were involved in the last chapter of the
patient's life expressed amazement at the level of peace he had
in his final moments.