Which Conversations Really Matter?

Premier Pulse     June 2020

By Scott Kanagy, DO, chief medical officer, Premier Health Northern Region

Imagine how difficult it must be to learn that you have a terminal illness. Then comes the decision - how to best live the rest of your days. This was the situation an elderly patient recently experienced at one of our hospitals.

Aaron Kaibas, DO, recognized the terminally ill patient still had reservations about her decision to be moved into hospice care. The patient had a known history of congestive heart failure and had a defibrillator in place that had kept her arrhythmias in check. Her arrhythmias were not likely going to end her life. She wanted to keep her defibrillator in place and allow it to protect her as it had done for more than a decade. However, she was terrified that the last few moments of her life would be painful due to the possibility of her defibrillator repeatedly shocking her to keep her heart beating. She could not imagine this being the way she spent her last few minutes in this world and feared how traumatic it would be for her family.

Dr. Kaibas explained exactly what the defibrillator would do as her heart stopped, and that in the end, it would not shock her repeatedly. Best of all were the words he used to explain this to her. He said, “The device will know when you’re making the transition from this world to the next.” After this interaction with Dr. Kaibas, the woman’s nurses saw her anxiety turn to peace. Many nurses also stated how calming these words were for them to hear, as they had become close with this patient during her hospitalization. One nurse stated, “His words were exactly what she needed to hear in order to decide how best to live out the final days of her life.”

What a difference this conversation made in this woman’s life. She was able to find peace in her decision and one of her main concerns was eliminated by the compassionate care of a provider. What if Dr. Kaibas had been in a rush or short with this patient? What if he had not taken the time to make sure all her questions were answered? It is this type of compassionate care that every patient deserves. I want to thank Dr. Kaibas as well as all who strive to deliver this type of care every day. In this time of a pandemic and social unrest, clear and effective communication and listening are more important than ever.

Back to the June 2020 issue of Premier Pulse

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