Do Not Resuscitate
We got a call that an 80-year old female had been vomiting blood all day and her nursing home wanted her taken to the ER (After we spoke to the staff we found out she had been puking blood since 8am, but they didn’t call for us until 4pm because she was DNR.)
I spoke to her in her bed, and asked how she was feeling, and she told me she was a bit nauseous, but otherwise OK. We transferred her onto our cot and brought her out to our rig. As we were loading her in, I saw her eyes flutter and her mouth drop open. I jumped into the ambulance to check her pulse and respirations, and they were both barely audible. As I was grabbing her chart to get her details, a nurse told me she had a DNR order on file (DNR = Do Not Resuscitate) so there was nothing we could do to try to save her. We called back to base to see what they wanted us to do, and we were told to transfer her to the hospital, lights but no sirens, and turn her over to the M.E.
It was a 10 minute ride to the ER, and my partner was driving. I had no professional responsibilities to keep this woman alive, so my role was relegated to keeping her warm and holding her hand while she died. And let me tell you: Watching someone go from freshly dead to 10 minutes past dead is fascinating.
Within 30 seconds of the ambulance doors shutting, the color started to drain from her face, starting at the forehead and progressing to the chin. I took her pulse throughout, and felt her neck get colder and colder as her heart rate gradually reduced to zero. She was still for 2-3 more minutes and then….the death rattle.
It was as forceful as someone normally exhaling, with a background of cracking sounds and what sounded like creaking wood emanating from her lips for 8-10 seconds. I was checking her respiration at the time of the death rattle and I caught a full-on whiff on what was in her belly. It was a terrible smell…much like what you would expect dried blood and death to smell like…and I turned away immediately, but was in awe of what I had experienced. A very unique opportunity indeed.
We arrived at the hospital, unloaded her and she was pronounced dead in the ER. She was just one elderly woman who died of natural causes, but watching her die is an experience that taught me a ton about what happens to the body immediately after life has departed and I am very grateful to have witnessed this.
Entry filed under: Sublime.