After multiple cups of coffee and the morning report over, I was walking toward my patient rooms to do a head-to-toe assessment, do vitals and chat. As I entered Ms. Kay’s room, someone had already opened her curtains; and the morning sunshine filled the room with a shimmering glow. My patient looked up at me with a welcoming smile and said, “Isn’t it beautiful outside today!” The night shift said she had been up early, combed her hair and applied some light makeup. Her hair was a soft “cotton white” that lay in ringlets all over her head and softened her face lined with “smile lines.” She was one of the most pleasant people I had met in life.
Ms. Kay was 82 years old and had been admitted to us in Intensive Care with severe chest pain after falling at home. She stated that she didn’t remember the fall; and when she woke up on the floor, she had “really bad chest pain” and pressed the Life Alert button she wore around her neck. On our initial interview, she told me that her sons presented the Life Alert Button to her as a birthday present and insisted that she get into the system as they both lived several hours away. She said she resisted at first but was now glad that she had given in and started to wear it for “her boys.” “You know,” she confided in me that day, “every older person that can should wear one particularly if they are like me and live alone.”
As I started assessing her, I said, “The night shift said you had a very restful night……” She interrupted me and exclaimed, “Yes except for my visitor.” I stepped back from the bed and looked at her because visiting hours were prohibited in Intensive Care unless the patient was critical. She proceeded to explain to me that she couldn’t even tell if it was part of a dream or really happened because it was “so real.” An angel had appeared at the foot of her bed and told her not to be afraid. The angel said that she was going to code tomorrow night, but she would be okay. As she finished her statement, all of the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and a faint chill went through my body. Ms. Kay explained she was telling me this just in case and to tell the other staff particularly the ones coming on night shift.
I had learned a very valuable lesson in my job. Never mention, debate or argue about politics or someone’s beliefs in their faith! I assured her I would tell the staff and went out to the nurses station to talk to the staff about what Ms. Kay told me. There was a snicker in the background from one of the newer nurses, but the “seasoned ones” were very aware of “unusual occurrences” we all had witnessed.
The night shift arrived, and all were given reports on their patients and an update given on Ms. Kay’s story. Kathy, a “seasoned nurse,” was given Ms. Kay. At approximately 2:15 am a monitor alarm went off; and almost simultaneously, Kathy shouted to the others, “Call a code!” Kathy had went into the room and did a quick assessment, and Ms. Kay was not responsive and in cardiac arrest. The code cart was brought into the room, and the protocols for cardiac arrest were started. Respiratory therapy was assisting Ms. Kay to breath with a bag device, and the emergency room doctor rounded the corner on the third shock from the defibrillator……. and then it was over. The monitor had actually improved and showed not an irregular heart rhythm but a normal sinus rhythm. Her blood pressure was within normal limits; and Ms Kay, although groggy, was waking up.
The nurses stood around the bed or peered from the doorway looking at each other in a “shock and awe” moment when a faint little voice exclaimed from the bed, “See, I told you I’d be okay!”