31 March 2009
Last week was a ghost town compared to this week. The ward was really busy. So busy that morning prayers were skipped. I found myself really missing that aspect of the day. I have come to treasure that time of unity with the Zulu culture and it’s a great way to start the day.
Instead, we started the day with the death of a patient. Just after 07h00 I found my shoulder being tapped by a nursing student looking slightly scared. She whispered into my ear, “Someone just died. Come and see.” I was thinking that this was probably the first time this student had experienced a death in the clinical setting, and I wanted to understand this hospital’s body prep procedure, so I followed her while trying to spread a calm and collected presence (in hopes to decrease her anxiety).
Death is hard to describe. Seeing it is even harder. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it before. But this time was different. During the whole process I felt hardened to death. More specifically, I felt nothing. This concerned me. Have I lost my compassion? My heart?
Unfortunately death is an all too active part of life in Africa. Perhaps I was naive in assuming this new nursing student hadn’t experienced it before. Perhaps they have the best view of death: it’s a part of life. Expected. And life goes on even in the midst of it. In fact, I was busy for the rest of the afternoon doing q15 minute vital signs on post-operative patients.