EMT Matthew O'Reilly is regularly asked, "Am I dying?‚ÄĚ He responds with the honest answer.
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He learned to be honest.
Throughout my career, I have responded¬†to a number of incidents where the patient¬†had minutes left to live¬†and there was nothing I could do for them.¬†With this, I was faced with a dilemma:¬†Do I tell the dying that they are about to face death,¬†or do I lie to them to comfort them?¬†Early in my career, I faced this dilemma¬†by simply lying.¬†I was afraid.¬†I was afraid if I told them the truth,¬†that they would die in terror, in fear,¬†just grasping for those last moments of life.
01:17 That all changed with one incident.¬†Five years ago, I responded to a motorcycle accident.¬†The rider had suffered critical, critical injuries.¬†As I assessed him, I realized that there was nothing¬†that could be done for him,¬†and like so many other cases, he looked me in the eye¬†and asked that question: "Am I going to die?"¬†In that moment, I decided to do something different.¬†I decided to tell him the truth.¬†I decided to tell him that he was going to die¬†and that there was nothing I could do for him.¬†His reaction shocked me to this day.¬†He simply laid back and had a look¬†of acceptance on his face.¬†He was not met with that terror or fear¬†that I thought he would be.¬†He simply laid there, and as I looked into his eyes,¬†I saw inner peace and acceptance.¬†From that moment forward, I decided¬†it was not my place to comfort the dying with my lies.¬†Having responded to many cases since then¬†where patients were in their last moments¬†and there was nothing I could do for them,¬†in almost every case,¬†they have all had the same reaction to the truth,¬†of inner peace and acceptance.¬†In fact, there are three patterns¬†I have observed in all these cases.
02:36 The first pattern always kind of shocked me.¬†Regardless of religious belief or cultural background,¬†there's a need for forgiveness.¬†Whether they call it sin¬†or they simply say they have a regret,¬†their guilt is universal.¬†I had once cared for an elderly gentleman¬†who was having a massive heart attack.¬†As I prepared myself and my equipment¬†for his imminent cardiac arrest,¬†I began to tell the patient of his imminent demise.¬†He already knew by my tone of voice and body language.¬†As I placed the defibrillator pads on his chest,¬†prepping for what was going to happen,¬†he looked me in the eye and said,¬†"I wish I had spent more time with my children and grandchildren¬†instead of being selfish with my time."¬†Faced with imminent death,¬†all he wanted was forgiveness.
03:27 The second pattern I observe¬†is the need for remembrance.¬†Whether it was to be remembered in my thoughts¬†or their loved ones', they needed to feel¬†that they would be living on.¬†There's a need for immortality¬†within the hearts and thoughts of their loved ones,¬†myself, my crew, or anyone around.¬†Countless times, I have had a patient look me in the eyes¬†and say, "Will you remember me?"
03:53 The final pattern I observe¬†always touched me the deepest, to the soul.¬†The dying need to know that their life had meaning.¬†They need to know that they did not waste their life¬†on meaningless tasks.