Doctor Facetimes family of dying patient to say goodbye

Apr 19 2020, 1:21 pm

In a touching gesture of humanity and compassion, a Toronto physician, Dr. Arnav Agarwal, allowed a family to say goodbye to their cherished loved one through FaceTime.

Unfortunately, due to the current policies in place to ensure the safety of patients and medical staff, as well as hinder the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, the family was not able to do this in person.

But Dr. Agarwal wanted to do what he could to provide the family with this small kindness.

In a series of tweets, Agarwal explained the situation as it unfolded.

In the first tweet, Agarwal described the deteriorating condition of the patient, who was COVID-positive.

“His wife popped up on the screen first,” he describes, “She let out a huge sigh of relief to have connected through. Her eyes looked tired.”

Gradually, other family members joined the call, and Agarwal asked for permission from the patient’s wife to add them in. The number steadily increased from one family member to 15.

“I was amazed,” Agarwal stated, “It had been only 10 minutes since I had gotten the video call arranged. People from across the world had found a way to share this moment with us.”

Agarwal switched the screens so that the patient’s family could see him. He stood there for 15 minutes as some family members reminisced about special moments shared, some embraced their heartbreak and begged him not to leave or moaned with grief, and some offered prayers for peace and comfort.

“It was among the heaviest moments I’ve encountered in my short clinical career so far,” he explains.

“It is difficult enough to encounter death and lose a loved one — it is exponentially more difficult to see them suffer alone, and to say goodbye through a video chat.”

Once every family member present on the call had had the opportunity to say their goodbyes, Dr. Agarwal moved away, expressed his condolences, and thanked them.

After hanging up and leaving the room, he “took some time on a busy Friday to cry.”

This instance is one of what can only be many experiences endured by doctors and patients during this global health crisis.

And while the tragedy of losing a loved one is painful and heartbreaking, hopefully, the family can take solace in the fact that their family member was not entirely alone.

Instead, he was cared for by a compassionate and empathetic physician who went above and beyond to ensure that his family had the opportunity to say goodbye.

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