Reader Submission: The Patient


“I’m a CNA (certified nursing assistant), and as everyone in the medical field will probably tell you, it’s not the easiest job in the world.

Halfway through my certification training, I started hands-on training for my clinical hours at a retirement home in Brunswick, GA. The first day was normal enough, but the second day was something else entirely.

I had just arrived and realized a patient needed assistance via the call light monitor. So I went to see what the problem was.

As soon as I stepped into the patient’s room, I realized a few things were a little off. The bed was stripped, there was no name tape or supplies anywhere to be found, no personal items anywhere, and all the shelves were empty. There was nothing there but a chair by the window, and there the patient quietly sat. I knew her name because there was an ID slip posted on the door, but for the sake of this story I’ll call her Elsa due to HIPPA restrictions.

‘Ms. Elsa?’ I called her name a few times to no avail. This wasn’t unusual as a lot of our patients suffer from Alzheimer’s. But there was an unusual stillness about her that made me uneasy. She didn’t even appear to be breathing. ‘Are you ok?’ I asked. She didn’t answer. I asked her what her favorite food was and if she had any children. Still no answer. She only continued to sit there, staring out of the window.

To gauge the patient’s awareness, I asked if she knew where she was. This time she answered back so suddenly it kind of startled me. Actually, I’d even say it scared me. After asking if she knew her location, Ms. Elsa replied, a little above a whisper, ‘Somewhere else.’

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I do now. ‘Alright then,’ I told her. ‘If you need anything else, just give us a buzz.’ I then left the room and went to another CNA and asked about Ms. Elsa’s condition after telling her what happened. She looked at me for a few seconds and very angrily said that I wasn’t funny.
As you can imagine, I was very confused. So I went to the charge nurse for clarity. Upon mentioning Ms. Elsa, her eyes got very wide and she told me ‘That’s impossible, young man. Ms. Elsa died two days ago.’

This experience shook me to the core and still does whenever I think about it.”

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