Views from the NHS frontline: Intensive Care Nurse

The Guardian. Published online: 25 July 2016

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My job as an intensive care nurse has made me realise that life is fleeting, fragile and unpredictable

“There’s a lot people don’t know about dying.

Most people are terrified of it. We don’t talk about it, and when we do it’s with hushed voices and delicate words. Most of us are blissfully ignorant until it forces us to take notice of it, whether it be because of a terminal illness, a fatal car accident or a loved one snatched from our lives. We are woefully unprepared for it. What are we supposed to do? What should we say? You never imagine it happening to you.

It is a sensitive subject, because deep down we know that it is the one thing in all our lives that is inevitable. Death does not discriminate, and it makes every single one of us equal. I was terrified of it too, but after seven years as an intensive care nurse I am familiar enough with death to be able to see it differently to most.

Death is ugly. It’s not glamorous, and most people do not close their eyes and slip away peacefully at home in their beds, surrounded by loving family. The death I see comes with plastic tubes and cannulas shoved into oozing blood vessels, giant machines that hiss, click and shriek alarms as they mechanise the life of a human being, and a rainbow of bad smells. It comes with cheap fabric curtains, stiff white sheets and sunken, fluid-swollen skin. It comes with an unexpected phone call that drags you from your bed into cold and uncomfortable waiting rooms at 3am. Even if it is expected, it still comes with an icy shock and a deep, gut-wrenching sadness.”

Read the full news article here

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