A 42-year-old man, husband and father of two little girls, who was a direct admit from his workplace after complaining of "a little chest pressure". Taking his medical history as I admitted him to our med/surg unit, I learned that he had the same inherited heart defect that had killed his father and his uncle at ages 51 and 48 respectively; this admission was strictly for precautionary purposes, he informed me, as he "really didn't feel all that bad".
A co-worker and friend of mine who was taking over his care asked me to grab a telemetry monitor for him. Just as I came into the room, this red-headed, freckle-faced man who looked 10 years younger than his real age---and who'd been chatting with us only minutes before---suddenly became pale, short of breath, and profusely diaphoretic.
"Oh please, don't let me die," he begged us as his color changed alarmingly from white to grey to purple. He grabbed my hand as if it were a lifeline and repeated his plea. "Don't let me die, I can't leave my wife and girls......."
Naturally we both promised him that we wouldn't let him die, even though we could see we were losing him even as we ran his bed down the hall to the ICU with RT and several other nurses working on him in transit. He lost consciousness almost immediately after we got there, followed in quick succession by his pulse and BP. Meanwhile, his wife and daughters were still in the med-surg waiting room, having no idea of what was transpiring.
We coded him for over an hour. But despite our promises, we were never able to re-establish a rhythm and he was pronounced dead, a mere two hours after feeling that "little tightness" in his chest at work. There wasn't a dry eye in that ICU after the doc called it........we all felt horrible. Even the physician and the RT were crying. Worse, we had to walk by the family on our way back to Med/Surg after it was all over; they'd been sent to wait outside the ICU and obviously hadn't yet been told that their loved one was gone. We didn't want to be around when that happened.
That one still haunts me, years later. We had a debriefing with the social worker and hospital chaplain after that, but dang, when someone clinging desperately to his last moments of life begs you to save him......and he doesn't make it.........well, there are some nights when sleep is slow in coming and I hear that poor man's voice again, and I see the fear in his eyes and feel the terrible knowledge that my hand, and not those of his beloved 'girls', was the last comfort he received on this earth.