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Inspiring Note from ER doctor after woman's death goes Viral  
Started by SusanG
14 Feb 2013, 11:54 PM

I don't know if this has been posted somewhere else on the site but I just had to share this story because I found it so inspiring.  I just received an email from a friend who told me about a letter from an ER doctor that has gone viral.  The letter was first published on Reddit by the son of the deceased woman, who reportedly died of breast cancer in December 2012.  I found the letter heart-warming and very sincere.  It made me think of when our daughter died and how much it meant when her healthcare providers reached out to us.  

Our chiropractor who made housecalls not only sent us flowers but wrote us a lovely card about what a privilege it was to get to know our daughter.  
Our family physican, who also made housecalls attended Brenna's memorial.  He walked up to me and placed in my hand one sprig of dried lavender and held my hands between his.  We cried together.  The meaning behind this small gesture:  Every time he came to our home during the summer he would pick a sprig of lavender and put it in his car as an air freshner.  We talked about the significance later -- to him the lavender represented his link with our family and he was letting me know that he would never forget Brenna and that he was there for us even though she was gone.  
One of the nurses who worked in our home as a night nurse was not supposed to contact us after the funeral.  She had us over dinner twice and we had to keep it a secret or there would have been ramifications for her job.  Those dinners allowed us to have deep conversations and they were key in helping us let her go and to move on.  When she told us that she wouldn't be keeping in touch with us anymore because she said she had been assigned to a new family and that she needed to give them 100% we understood and had time to process that.  She was not supported or enabled to do this--she took it on herself, at her own risk, but we will be forever grateful that she did because her actions allowed us to transition in a healthy way. 

Professional boundaries or healthcare organization rules often dictate contact after a death and those boundaries can at times be a protection for both the family and the staff member.  However, sometimes they can be a sad constraint that doesn't allow for human contact and fellow feeling.  I know for my family and I it was those who went the extra mile and perhaps broke a rule or two that touched our hearts forever.   The ER doctor in this situation probably didn't break any rules of conduct but the fact that he took time out of his busy schedule to write down his thoughts obviously meant the world to this family.  T son of the woman who posted the letter says it all, "This letter from my late mother's doctor has changed my life."  

Personal note from ER doctor written after woman’s death goes viral

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Reply by eKIM
01 Mar 2013, 12:01 AM

Feb 28/13

I know that in my role as a hospice resident support volunteer that (according to the rules) I am not allowed to “follow up” with families after a resident has passed away.  My guess is that the hospice is trying to protect themselves in the event that there was a complaint regarding the “follow up”. 

Families are very fragile and vulnerable at this time in their lives.  The possibility of miscommunication would be high, I would think.  Also we as volunteers are not professional grief counselors and might inadvertently overstep our role.

Having said this, it is sad to part ways with people that you have grown close to.

-       eKim

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Reply by womynstar8
18 May 2013, 8:34 PM

Thanks again, Susan, for posting this.  I agree with eKim.  Professionalism is over rated when it denies professionals the right to be true and honest with their own feelings, and perhaps offer the family something that is priceless -- their own humynity and feelings!!!

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