Medical professionals have a tough job, and dying patients can leave a mark on them like no other. This was the theme of today's burning question from Redditor freeshavacadont, who asked the online community: "Medical workers of Reddit, what were the most haunting last words you've heard from a patient?"
The question prompted responses from medical professionals and the family members of people who've since passed.
"Had a patient on the cardiac icu..."
Had a patient on the cardiac icu during my second month of intern year who had newly diagnosed heart failure that we couldn't figure out what caused it.
He was a healthy guy. In his 60s. Did yoga every day, walked a few miles 5 days a week. Genuinely nice guy which is always a bad prognostic sign.
With his heart failure, his heart was so stretched out and not squeezing adequately to provide the blood and subsequent oxygen he needs to the rest of his body. A few nights into his hospital stay, I come in the next morning and discovered that the senior resident had to code him for sustained unstable heart arrhythmia ( unstable v tach).
I went and talked with him about it the next morning and he told me that he was in and out of consciousness during it all (from the low blood pressure) but he compared it to the feeling of jumping out of the plane and sky diving.
Later that morning I was checking on him again and he didn't look so good. He goes into the arrhythmia again, drops his blood pressure, and is in and out of consciousness. As I'm charging the defibrillator to shock him again, he comes back around to and briefly and asks me if I'm taking him sky diving again and let's out a nervous laugh before losing consciousness.
"It wasn't words..."
The most haunting death was a patient who was DNR, through her and her family's wishes. She was losing her battle, and her family wasn't there. She was getting frantic and looking around and half sitting up in bed, and a nurse with more experience than me, took her hand and calmly said, "it's ok. You're not alone. We're right here with you; it's ok to leave." The patient immediately calmed, put her head back on the pillow and died.
I knew I wanted to be that nurse when I grew up. How the hell did she know just what to do and say? I've never forgotten it.
"I'm an EMT..."
I'm an EMT. Had a patient say "I don't feel so good" right before they dropped dead of a massive heart attack.
It was just the matter of fact way they said it.
"I am haunted, but not in a bad way."
(Nurse) In hospital caring for 40ish man with brain tumor, coming in and out of consciousness. Not to be resuscitated. His 16 year-old daughter was crying non-stop for 12 hours. His wife, who had been given a few months to prepare herself, was calm and focused on her husband. I had to routinely check his level of consciousness which involved talking to him in a loud voice (responds to auditory stimulation), which I did not like to do.
So I asked his wife to do the loud voice part, so the voice he would hear would be hers not mine, and she did so without hesitation. The only response we observed with. her vocalization was that this by now profoundly unconscious patient took her hand to his lips and kissed it. He stopped breathing very soon after that. I am haunted, but not in a bad way.
"With wide eyes..."Giphy
With wide eyes, "Don't listen to my family, they want to keep my around forever but I just want to die. They won't let me."
She wanted to get off dialysis which was a death sentence for her.
"When I was training..."
When I was training I had a guy go into a massive cardiac arrest. We ended up working on him for over an hour and a half because we kept getting him back then losing him again. He had wet himself during the arrest (which is common, it happens) and he just kept apologising for "making a mess."
"Hospice nurse here."
Hospice nurse here - had a patient who was experiencing terminal agitation. With an expression of complete terror on his face he said "help me! They are coming to get me."
"During my residency..."
During my residency I was on call and running the hospital (as senior residents tend to do). One of my responsibilities was being in charge of the entire ICU (which had about 16-20 bed capacity).
I was taking care of a man who had a bowel perforation (a hole in his intestines). He had a NG (nasogastric) tube up his nose into his stomach so that he wouldn't drown in his own feces. His brother and sister in law came to visit him and they had a nice conversation. I walked in as they were leaving and they said to him "make sure to listen to the doctor" as they left.
The patient and I talked a bit and he wasn't looking so good. I kept hearing a gargling sound as he was speaking to me. The kind of sound you make when you rinse out your mouth with mouth wash and spit it out. I immediately checked his NG tube and it came right out. He looked at me and said "I shouldn't have played with the tube.." before going pale and losing a pulse. I did everything in my power to save him that day, but his lungs were full of stool and he died 20 minutes later.
The rest of the day I felt utterly numb and it still sits with me to this day. To have a patient smiling and laughing with you one moment, then being deceased 20 minutes later is one hell of a rollercoaster ride.
Edit : to clear up a few quick points. The NG tube was attached to a canister on the wall and set to suction to help remove contents. And the patient most likely aspirated (think about when you eat and cough/swallow at the same time and the food goes down the "wrong pipe" = airway versus the esophagus) after he pulled his tube out enough that it slipped out of his esophagus and thus allowed the contents to flow down the airway.
I hope this clears things up. Sorry for any confusion. And thanks for the great questions and discussion. I'm doing my best to get to them during work.
"There was no one..."
"I see the man in the corner again."
There was no one but she'd been seeing a dark man in the corner for days and asking about him. Toward the end, this was all she talked about beside crying for her mother. Cancer.
"It's not words that haunt me..."
It's not words that haunt me. It's the last few agonal breaths, gasping and gurgling, before they are gone. I still remember the first patient I lost as we stood by as per patient/family request. Haunting.
Paramedic here. I was transporting a cardiac patient and while we were both watching my EKG monitor, he went into Vfib, a lethal heart rhythm. His heart stopped pumping blood effectively at that point but there was enough blood pressure for a few seconds of consciousness. He looked at me and said "But I don't see the light." and went unconscious.
Coded him, shocked him a few times, meds by the handful, but he died.
Nursing home. Most elderly people are at ease as they get nearer and nearer to death. But this old lady, as she deteriorated over her last week or so, would SCREAM:
I DON'T WANT TO DIE! I DON'T WANT TO DIE! I DON'T WANT TO DIE! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!
Really heartbreaking to see.
"My husband is a PICU nurse..."
My husband is a PICU nurse and one morning he came home in a bit of a daze. I asked him what was wrong and he told me about a little boy who had been in PICU for a few days already and wasn't getting better. Most nights, the little boy would wake up so one of the nurses would keep him company while he fell asleep again. My husband was doing just that, he read him a book then just sat there with the boy listening to music so he would go back to sleep. Before falling asleep the little boy said "You were my favorite". The boy passed away in the morning, his little heart gave out and refused to restart.
Although all patients are important, some leave more of an impression than others. Until that point, that little boy hadn't stood out to my husband and he felt terrible about it because, clearly, he had made a big impression on that little boy. That was the only patient's funeral he has ever attended.
"I'm an intern..."
I'm an intern at a home for patients with Alzheimer's and have only been there for a few weeks. The first patient to pass during my internship said 'who am I?', for some reason it saddens me deeply and I can't seem to let it go.
"Had a patient that kept coding..."
Had a patient that kept coding, but every time they came back they'd get crazy strong, fight everyone, and then start saying the Lord's Prayer...they'd trail off and code again.
Another one snatched me by the arm and pleaded that they wanted to see their baby grow up. Sixty seconds later I was pumping away on their chest.
In my line of work I hear a lot of last words. These two though- surprisingly weren't the final last words. I just thought they were and at the time it was a perfectly rational thought.
Of last last words my favorites were always the "I want you to go away and leave me alone. I'm going to sleep. Goodbye." Family members didn't pick up on that one, but that patient and his eyes said it all.
DQ: What's your favorite example of famous last words?