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This I Believe as to How and Why Some Patients Refuse to Die

I believe the spirit of man, rather than being something ethereal we possess, is the life force within us. From a scientific standpoint, it is the force that actuates our mind and body and all the billions of cells to interact in a symphonic harmony we call life.

Like the fire burning on a match, as long as there is fuel and oxygen there is life. So to with us, as long as there is spirit sustained by breathing, we keep living. As a match running out of fuel into the mere glow of the final flicker of a flame, so too, the spirit or life force comes to an end.

But that is merely the end of the force that actuates the whole of the biological organism that we call alive. There are never flat lines as TV would have us believe. There is always a transient beat of the heart, twitch of a muscle, rarely a patient might sit up. What ever may come to be, the life force that made the patient a person is no more. It comes to an end.

Life doesn’t completely come to an end however. The heart continues to live although absent of spirit, if for only a few hours. Placed in someone with a strong spirit but defective parts, it is assimilated to become part of the collective of an entirely different spirit. The liver has life for several hours.

The cornea of our eyes continues ready for life, in another host for 1 week. That is unless you live in a third world country where they are considered viable for 2 weeks.

This miraculous thing we call life, within the cells of that organ to be transplanted, become part of the life we call our father, mother, sister, brother, daughter or son. My belief is based on the life I have seen and observed as a scientist.

Life can and does at times extinguish itself like a match that prematurely goes out.

Some diseases for no apparent reason cause the body to self destruct. Here in can be seen a beautiful and yet powerful attribute of our spirit or life force has. Patients with the best chances fail and those with the worse prognosis survive. Anecdotal reports of the elderly in agrarian Russia showed death rates declined prior to and increased after harvest. This life force is indeed powerful…that is if we choose to use it. As a nurse this I have seen first hand with my patients and I believe.

One evening a patient on another floor from where I was working requested that I see her. Like the many before, she thanked me for my care on her previous hospital stay. Unlike the others, she was also saying good bye. She indicated she was going to be leaving.

A physical assessment was started along with the assurance she wasn’t dieing. However to my horror she was. She had an awareness that her life force was slowly starting to become that flicker and was soon going out. She was dying right there in front of my eyes, in my hands. She knew it. Now I did too.

A call for assistance resulted in the night shift nurses going to work to keep that flame of life burning. They cared for her physiological needs. I cared for her spiritual need. Not religiously, rather a scientific psychological empowerment of that force. Asking if there was any job yet to be done, anything to live for, she faintly uttered, “Yes! I want to see my Granddaughter graduate from high school.”

Encouraging her to tap into that force that actuates the mind and body, I suggested she think and see herself in the audience watching that ceremony. “See yourself living, see your self there,” was the fuel to keep that flame from becoming a flicker and going out.

With death threatening, emergency surgery sealed her fate.

Commendation for observing the unusual life threatening condition and saving her life came from the surgeon the next day. Later, the daughter, a bed side witness, came up hugging me, crying, and thanking me for saving her mom’s life.

Yet who really was it that saved her. The nurses who, with the precision of a pro-sports team went into action? The skilled surgical staff? Should Mrs. Sereno, My Orthopedic Instructor in nursing school who told us, if we forgot everything else that she taught, remember this one unusual, rare, and sometimes difficult to recognize syndrome.

And what about the patient, or rather her spirit. Should not some credit go to that life force that was her.

Her life force, her spirit, kept the flame burning long enough for her physical needs to be met by the health care team. Clinically speaking, she was in a condition that was not compatible with life. That this is possible, in spite of scientific data that suggests otherwise, tells me that there is a power beyond what humans can study or measure.

Was this anything more than the life force or spirit helping to continue in possession of one of its most precious possessions, its ability to be? What things any of us can accomplish, be they great or small, if even maintaining our own existence, is because of this remarkable power.

This power or force that actuates our mind and body, I believe to be the spirit of man. It makes all of us whoever or what ever we are. If we chose to, it is ours to control until we give it up or are too tired to hold on any longer.

Whether helping cheat death a little longer or being there for the few who became the flicker and then no more, I believe the spirit of man is only the life force within us. Yet what a truly marvelous, incredibly powerful, beautiful force it is.

May all of us use that force to create, build and benefit our fellow man.

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