I was asked to consult on a patient this weekend. She is 80+ with severe dementia. She opened her eyes when I said her name, but I'm not sure that it wasn't a coincidence. She doesn't follow commands or even track me with her eyes. Anyway, she had gangrene of her foot. Her family wanted it to be amputated, because they felt it caused her pain. Unbelievably, this is not a post about medical ethics or how we treat the elderly or the quantity vs quality of life. Her other leg had a bone infection, and the doctor wanted an opinion on how to treat it. The surgeon was going to amputate her gangrenous leg above the knee. The family knew that there was a very high likelihood that she wouldn't survive the surgery; they felt that the pain she was having from the leg made that risk one worth taking.
I saw her post-operatively as well. She made it through. I was quite surprised. I went in to see her today, and she wasn't on the board. Turns out she died. Just sort of suddenly, peacefully and completely out of the blue.
I saw a list of her belongings: one neck scarf, one blanket, one winter hat, one sock. One sock. That struck me for some reason. Kind of sad, kind of heartwarming. For some reason, I felt very relieved that her sock made it home.