On Death and Dying

Nothing had prepared me for it. The beeps of the monitor were slowing down, and the rattle of the last few breaths was making itself heard. Time seemed to stop. The beeps fell silent, and the feeling in the room was solemn. The dark room was empty aside from me and him.

I thought this first experience had been unique, yet it happened again. And again. Maybe I was following the sickest of the sick, maybe I naturally gravitated towards those who needed comfort. There was nothing that made it any easier. There was something uncanny about turning off the monitor, removing the IV lines, and tucking them into bed for the last time. It seemed to hit me like a truck every time, struggling to hold in the tears while also continuing with the day of work.

Sometimes death came expected. Sometimes it came as a relief. Sometimes it did not.

I found myself in strange places, hidden in the hospital chapel with a plastic rosary I had no idea how to use or sitting on the cold cement steps of the back stairwell.

It was hard. To be gowned and gloved, often alone, and holding the hand of a person I never knew was difficult. It kept my mind occupied; it kept my dreams full. It broke my spirits.

And then, the consult happened. A familiar name. An ominous diagnosis.

His smiles gave me hope. His jokes had my eyes rolling. His tight hand squeezes made my day. His kind eyes poured love and joy into my heart. Oh, how hard it is to separate friend from patient, especially in those last few days.

Everyone handles death differently. Some choose to laugh and smile. Some choose to cry. Some choose to not be present, not wanting to have those last memories be one of an empty hospital room. These impacted me the most – while the family chose to pull away, I was drawn in. My role became entirely different, yet equally important, as those who had previously sat on the other side, grasping the hands of their loved one.

To each of my patient teachers, thank you. To those who allowed me to hold their hands as they departed this life, you have taught me lessons bigger than I imagined. Thank you for giving me the honor of being a part of your care. Each of your moments and lessons will forever be engrained in my heart, to further be passed on to my future patients. In that way, you will live on. Your legacy will be carried out in the way that I practice medicine. I promise I won’t let you down.

 

 

Anna Tarasidis

I was born in St. Louis, MO and grew up in Greenwood, SC. Growing up in a small town taught me the importance of community, which I found quickly at the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville. I then graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Bioengineering. As much as I love my medical school, I’m quick to cover up the garnet with some solid orange on game days. I have a passion for connecting with, mentoring, and encouraging others.

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