The morning I had my 1st patient die was a strange one. She had been given six months to live and her time was up. I did not know this.
She had emphysema and would still do any thing for a smoke. Even if it meant hacking up blood for the next 24 hours. She had diabetes but would snitch sweets and eat entire tins of cookies. I guess she felt like she had nothing to lose
That 11-7 was rough she was irritable and nothing could be done to please her. She was still walking and going to the bathroom all on her own. I suspected nothing.
At 6:30 am I was making my last round, passing ice to all my patients and making sure all was well before I left. I entered my patients room. She had finally gotten some sleep and was pleasant and relaxed.
I took her cup to fill it with ice, I put it on the refreshment cart and walked into the room across the hall to the next patient.
Now as stated before I worked on the Alzheimer’s unit and no patients move fast. They move at a slow pace due to their condition and the type of meds they are on. Thus, I was surprised to see what I can only describe as a very fast shadow whip across my peripheral vision.
I looked up went out into the hall almost at a run. In and out of all my rooms all the way to the end of the hall. I thought there was an emergency code going on and was rushing to help. The only thing I found was a patient standing and staring into the corner at the end of the hall. I greeted her turned her around and she slowly shuffled to the nurse’s station.
I then made my way back up the hall ice in hand. I entered room 121 and found my patient face down on the floor, arms down by her side. It looked like she rolled straight out of the bed without making any effort to stop herself. I shook her and called her name… no response. I turned her over and knew all was not well. The lady that had yelled at me all night was far too quite and still. The image that flashed through my mind was of a fish I had when I was a child. It had thrown itself out of the tank in the night and the unearthly white pallor of its scales. I quickly went out into the hall and called the nurse to come. She was pronounced dead a short time later.
I was visibly shaken and all assumed it was because of the death, which was only partially true. What I continued to go over and over in my mind was…what had I seen seconds after leaving her room? Did I witness her spirit leaving, was it the “Grim Reaper” come to call? I have to say that nursing is a challenging profession. You stand at the doors in and out of this existence.