Death Does Not Take a Holiday

Content warning: death and depression follows. But also hope and happiness.

Disclaimer: Events are also a bit fictionalized in time and details

Yesterday I felt a man’s life leave his body.

Today, I felt the life course through a man’s veins, a man who had been dead moments before.

One dead. One alive.

I know my time in the field has been short, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully appreciate the difference.

One dead. One alive.

In another room a woman dies while her family still is on their way. Too late to say their goodbyes.

In another room a man comes in on the worst day of this life, but leaves alive.

One dead. One alive.

Later a man, who had wished for death, comes in and now fights the nurses trying to keep him alive because he fears they’re there to kill him. He survives to fight another day.

One alive.

In one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H, Hunnicutt, Hawkeye, and Houlihan fight to keep an injured soldier alive at least long enough so they can record his death on the day after Christmas, rather than Christmas Day itself so the soldier’s children don’t have to think of Christmas Day their father died. In the end, they can’t do it and end up falsifying the records in order to cheat death.

Despite the title of the episode being “Death Takes a Holiday”, the truth is, death never takes a holiday.

In my very short time working in the Emergency Department I’ve seen people die and I’ve seen people live.

But this shift, the eve of Christmas Eve has been especially poignant and has hit me a bit harder than other shifts. The death of a loved one, especially an unexpected death can be hard. I think so doubly so during the holidays.

But also, as I said above, I saw a man who was dead come back to life again because of the efforts of all those around him, complete strangers doing their best to give death a holiday. This time the succeeded.

Today and tomorrow, I’ll be giving my family an extra hug. I hope you can too.

Disclaimer: my views do not represent my employer: Albany Medical Health Systems or Albany Medical Center.

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