I just went through this a few days ago. Although I have been a nurse for 12 years and before that a CNA in a nursing home for 5 yrs, I have been with many patient's and their families as their loved one took their last breath of this life. This lovely man made the choice to end his suffering along with the recommendation of the Cardiologist. He had severe Pulmonary Edema and Decompensated CHF. He lived on his pacemaker and a Dobutamine drip. He was tired, in chronic pain and just didn't want to suffer anymore. His entire body was swollen... He had no quality of life. He made the decision to have his pacemaker shut off as well as his Dobutamine drip. He wanted to go home to die, but his wife was NOT ready for this. She said no, she could not handle it. He understood and hoped in time that she would understand his decision as well. I told him it was the kindest thing he could have done for himself and his family and that we would be there with him through his transition and make him comfortable. The night before he was to have his pacemaker shut off, we took turns spending time with him, reminiscing about his life and the things he had accomplished. (He was a Corporate pilot for the Government as well as an Instructor) His family was not there through this. They said their goodbye's the next day before they shut off the pacemaker and the drip. He was so grateful to us for spending time with him. The next day before I left, (I work the nightshift) I hugged him and told him I would be back that night and would take care of him. They came to shut his pacemaker off at 11AM. I couldn't sleep well that day. I called into work at about 6PM to ask how he was doing and at that time he was hanging in there. When I got to work, he was no longer responsive, I sat next to him, held his hand, gently rubbed his head, Put on the Christian channel with Gospel music, as he was a Christian. I prayed for him and talked to him. He was on a Morphine drip and had been given some Ativan. Throughout the night his breathing became agonal, his heart rate slowly became brady until @0310 he went Asystole. Although my heart broke and along with several other co-workers, cried our eyes out, I was blessed to have been there with this lovely man.
God has given us nurses this beautiful and wonderful gift to be able to hold the hand of a stranger and see them through the transition of death, to hug a stranger and their families when they are in pain, to show compassion beyond measure. Although this man and his family were no strangers to us, because we had been caring for him through multiple admissions for weeks at a time, He did not die alone. I am grateful to have been given this gift and still, although a very sad job at times, love being a nurse. God Bless all of us nurses for we do a job that not many can handle.