Machines beeping, ventilators blowing air into the lungs of half conscious people, drips and drains everywhere, bodies covered with lines and attachments that give through different readings… Once you’ve experienced this; then you start to realize that death is real. It is not just a concept that one speaks about and forgets, or something that you think will never happen to you when you are young and fit. You realize how vulnerable the human being is and how easy it is for something to go wrong with these machines that we call our bodies; you realize that death can come across whether you are young or old. It is not until facing death, that you really start to value life.
As a 22 year old physiotherapy student, it was heart-breaking and a major wake-up call to see a 29 year old in the ICU. This is since, as young individuals, one barely ever thinks about this concept. You never think that it actually is possible that today you are healthy and without any problems, and tomorrow you are in ICU battling to stay alive.
Working as a physiotherapy student in the intensive care unit really made me realize that life is a gift and that one should appreciate everyday you have. You should love your family and friends and try to live the best life you possibly can. You should grab opportunities with both hands and you should do your very best with everything you take on.
I realised that as a physiotherapist, I can make a difference in these peoples’ lives. I can be there when they are fighting with death and I can encourage them to fight harder. I realized how important it is that physiotherapists give moral support to patients, since you sometimes are the only person that spends extended periods of time with a patient. You are also the person with which the patient (if they are awake and not sedated) can share their concerns with and you are the person that can calm the patient and help them feel more relaxed.
I must say, as an individual, I definitely experience a new appreciation of life’s value. According to King, et al (2006), this is bound to happen. They are also of meaning that life itself emerges with enhanced value after people confront its “fragile and finite nature”. I definitely agree with this statement.
I feel that my end-of-life experiences in the ICU has not lead me to fear death, but rather have better appreciation for life and a realisation that life is full of opportunities and should be lived meaningfully.
King, L.,Hick, J., Krull., J., & Del Gaiso, A. (2006). Positive affect and the experience of meaning of life. The American Psychological Association, 90(1), 179-196.