March 29, 2015

Bleeding to Death as a Mechanism of Standing for What You Believe.

Tonight on my desk there is a folder: Clinical Strategies To Avoid Blood Transfusion. Provided to our trauma office by a Jehovah's Witness minister in Salt Lake City, whose card is in the cover.

A few years ago I had my first experience caring for a Jehovah's witness patient who was bleeding. In nursing school this had come up, in discussions of childbirth, of ethics, of cultural awareness and sensitivity. Of the way that Jehovah's Witness patients do not believe in accepting blood transfusions. Of my friend who cared for a woman who was bleeding to death and chose to accept blood, and then felt that she had lost her eternal soul.

But this was my first real life encounter. The man was bleeding internally. Bleeding excessively. I walked with my surgeon into a room full of the man's family and listened to my boss explain to the family that he was going to bleed to death. That we could surgically stop the bleeding, but that without a transfusion, the man would die. The surgeon had discussed this with the man and the man looked him straight in the face: that would be okay with me. The family, without hesitation agreed. And the man promptly and quietly bled to death.

I sobbed. I sobbed so much that I had to leave work early that day. I wanted so badly to tell his family how blessed I felt by having been able to encounter someone who acted with such conviction. But I was sobbing. So I did what I often did in such situations, I called James, who has always been a great supporter of my sobbing, among other things. I had to tell someone that a man just died for what he believed, and that he had done it stoically, unwavering and unflinching.

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