Sorrel recalls her first experience of caring for a patient at the end of life and how the passion for nursing she gained that day has stayed with her throughout her career
It is a really cold December day with just a few days left until Christmas. As I leave my family and step outside, I almost feel numb to the cold as I brace myself for the sad day that’s ahead.
I am a nurse for the NHS.
As the excitement heightens and Christmas celebrations begin, I take myself into a very different place. A sombre place appropriate to the highly sensitive situation I am about to face.
An elderly gentlemen on my ward is now at the end of his life. A life that has been filled with happiness and joy but tainted with heartache and grief. A life that he dedicated to his country, which he fought for and protected at a time when I would have needed him, but now he will need me - today more than ever before. For this time his fight is very different, a brave battle that he no longer has the strength to overcome.
As I sit at his bedside I tell myself that I must forget about the paperwork and focus on what is important today. I place my hand to the hand of this gentle soul who is taking his last breath. He has no one left now, just me. His wife already in God’s arms, no living relatives, no children. I see a single tear roll down his cheek as I whisper gently to him. I place a faded photograph onto his weak, pain-free body, the only possession he has left in the world. The photo of a young, strong, handsome man with his young, beautiful wife. Looking at the picture, I can almost see into his past, they look so happy, dressed in uniform, their whole lives ahead of them, and now those years have gone, a distant memory.
The atmosphere around us is tranquil, almost as though there is no one around for miles, just the sound of a robin singing, perched on the cubicle windowsill.
As the life slowly leaves his body, I feel the gentle grip of his hand in my hand loosen as he slips away peacefully. The darkened room almost glimmers from the lightness of the blue skies outside. I sense that he is aware I am here to comfort him as he passes onto his next life.
An overwhelming feeling that I will never forget.
This was back in 1998 when I was a newly qualified staff nurse, almost naive to the feelings that I was about to experience. This experience set my passion for nursing alight as I had the overwhelming feeling of being needed during this transcending event, something that cannot be taught in university. The peace, the dignity, the comfort and someone just being there, meant more to the patient than anything else.
It was my duty, my honour, to respect his final wish of a peaceful passing. I am confident I fulfilled this wish and it was an immense privilege.
As a new day begins, each different to the rest
It sometimes feels like God has set us a test
A test of our knowledge, A test of our skills
Of the care that we provide as his angels with wings
Though you will not see us standing there with angel wings aglow
Because we are nurses, we are human, we have feelings, that I know…
Sorrel Hill, registered nurse at Cwm Taf NHS Trust