The last breath
I have been an LPN for a little over a year now.
While waiting to get back into school and transition to an RN, I have been working at a nursing home since graduation.
I love working with the elderly. Through time, I have found how much you can learn from their experiences. It’s a neat feeling to see through someone else’s eyes as they tell you a story from way back when.
It’s also very entertaining being a LTC nurse – the majority of our residents have some form of dementia, so they will do and say whatever they feel like at the time.
From sassy remarks, throwing drinks, trying to steal a kiss, and even taking off a shoe to whoop me with, yes, I have experienced it all!
But the most profound experience I have had, yet, is death.
An experience like no other
Obviously, working in healthcare, and especially in a nursing home, you are bound to lose someone at one point in time. My first experience with loosing a resident came shortly after I had been in nursing for 3 months.
I entered the room of a lady who was bed-bound and a peg feeder. Her limbs stayed contracted in an awkward way, with very little expression on her face. She was staring into space as usual and breathing slow, shallow breaths.
After I administered her medicine via peg tube, I looked up at her and noticed her coratid artery pulse 2-3 times very quickly.
Then, it stopped.
As soon as that happened, a CNA walked in and said “Oh my gosh, she’s dead!”
I did not comprehend it at first. I wanted to believe she was wrong.
I called the front desk and told them she had passed. The next thing I knew, all the nurses come flying down the hallway with the crash cart.
They frantically asked me if she was a DNR, and my newbee-self did not even know where to look for that information.
I started scrambling through my MAR, running to ask the ward clerk, and grabbing charts.
“Some, you knew it was coming; others were a total surprise.”
Finally, after the board is placed under the resident and CPR was about to begin, someone shouts “She’s a DNR. Stop!”
And so we did.
I have lost people in my life, but never had I actually witnessed someone take their last breath. It was an experience like no other.
Since then, I have lost many residents whom I have grown fond of while providing care. Some, you knew it was coming; others were a total surprise.
I’ve had some residents tell me they weren’t ready to go just yet, while others cry in bed at night because they think God forgot about them.
Whatever the circumstance may be, I always try to value the time I have left on this earth. You never know when Jesus will call you home.