An Indiana nurse wrote a Facebook post that has since gone viral for the raw emotions she conveyed.
On Dec. 5, Sandra Maria Kluskowski, a nurse at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, shared a photo of an empty hospital bed, along with a lengthy, poetic caption addressed to a patient who had recently passed.
"Did you know I was there?" she asked. "I was just another voice getting report and gathering all information so I would know more about you. Did you hear the marker on the white board spell out my name? I greeted you in a comforting voice."
Kluskowski proceeded to detail how she tried to help the patient.
"I came in after gathering all the supplies I would need to get you cleaned up," she wrote. "Could you tell I wasn't in a hurry? I tried to take my time. I didn't need to verbally hear you say you were in pain, your moans were enough and I understood clearly. I ran out to get a warm blanket from the heater. I hoped that it would warm you up."
But when a doctor told the patient's family that the patient didn't have much longer to live, the nurse admitted that her nerves got the best of her.
"I was scared, could you tell?" she asked. "My hands were trembling, as I spoke to you about all the things I had to do to get you ready to be picked up ... Did you see how I kept looking up at the ceiling to hold back tears? The lump in my throat was the worst part. It felt like I couldn't breathe."
Kluskowski later described the patient's final moments.
"Your body began to stiffen and your skin was just room temperature," she wrote. "I kept telling you how sorry I was, I knew that if you were still alive and as I was pulling on the tape it would be pulling on the fine hairs on your arm ... I just want you to know that I did my best. I was scared again and this wasn't the first time."
The nurse concluded her post with a heartfelt reminder that hospital employees like herself are also human.
"Please know that I am a strong person and my level of compassion excels any inch of unkindness," she wrote. "I'm only human, I feel fearful and get scared and yes I cry. I only hope to have others be able to relate to the feelings I have about situations we are going through in the moment. It's not always easy but I still believe 'we should treat others the way we would want to be treated.'"
Kluskowski's poignant post has since gone viral — as of Friday afternoon, it has been shared over 10,000 times. It also provoked a number of strong reactions from fellow Facebook users.
"Words can't even explain how much of a big heart it takes to do what you do day in and day out," one person wrote in response. "The people you care for have the privilege to be taken care of by you and in my opinion, it's the greatest privilege to have when facing what they face."
"So beautiful!" another person wrote. "You are a blessing to those people and their families! You have a huge beautiful heart Sandra! Always have and I'm so proud of all you've accomplished. I love you!"
In an interview with Good Morning America, the nurse said that, because she's occasionally the last person a dying patient sees, the hardest part of her job is "leaving for the day and wondering whatever happened to that person, and just hoping that if they are not still in the bed I last saw them in, then hoping and praying they made it home."
"My heart hurts over the loss of someone's loved ones," she explained. "I wish that I could take that pain from them but I don't have that ability; all I have is myself in which I try to do what I can when it comes to providing the care they need before and after death."