What's your "Dead Patient" story?

Nurses General Nursing


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417 Posts

Specializes in ccu cardiovascular.

not sure if one might think this is funny but here goes....

About three years a go, new years eve, i had an elderly lady named harriet that had been a frequent flyer with us over the past year. certainly with her end stage chf, ef of only 3% was finally dying. THE family had made her a dnr, and was lingering for days.

The only family available was a daughter who had been by her bedside endlessly, she finally went home to get much needed rest and to be with her family for the holiday.

As par for the course this lady decided she did not want to wait around for the new year to pass, she took a progressive turn for the worse and though her body was trying to let go, she just seemed like she didn't know what to do?

She had been semi-comotose for weeks, i called her family to let them know the time is very soon, the daughter said she was past exhaustion and just could not do this anymore today, i told her i would let her know when she had passed.

I cannot let a patient die alone so i along with 2 cna's (one was from psych) sat with her for her final journey home. Her heart was only beating at this time at 10-15/min and she had regained

semi consciousness. I told her daughter was aware and it was

her time to go! something was keeping her here, finally i said to her "harriet go towards the light!!!!" (needless to say the male cna from psych thought i was insane ) but she passed about 2 seconds later.


131 Posts

While I was going to nursing school I worked as a paramedic.

A mid 50's female patient with chest pain uncontrolled with anything she had at home or we had to offer on the way to the hospital, started to tell us about all the spirits in the ambulance. She further identified about 5 that I remember to have died while I was working, one being a 12 year old boy, another a man who had been in a fall accident. She said, wow! lots of people have died in this ambulance. Her identification of the sex and injuries were so spooky but so real.

As we pulled up to the hospital she sat straight up, yelled, grabbed her chest and was asystole before I could respond. We entered the ER doing CPR and they questioned our chest pain awake and talking report a few minutes back.

Needless to say, she was pronounced in the ER and I did share the ride stories with the nurses.

This ride still gives me chills 12 years after it happened.

Specializes in CCU (Coronary Care); Clinical Research.

This one was recent form me...I got report from the day shift on a patient that had been admitted four hours prior...she had gotten report from the transfer hospital that in no way matched the patient. She said she was expecting a fairly stable patient...patient wasn't even sent acls transport...patient was close to unresponsive upon arrival with a pH of 7.1...intubated patient...patient was a fairly fresh dcd post op from a couple of days ago... etc...When I took over, patient was responsive, vented, max dopa, and epi started. BP remained low...BP were acting strange, very narrow pulse pressures...neck very swollen/purple/draining (culture not good) from previous surgery...Checked temp up to 40.5. Called doc. Intervention done-cooling blanket/tylenol/fan/etc. Checked temp again in one hour temp 41.5. Starting to have bad feeling at this point...BP low, HR dropping, dopa, epi, vasopressin started (would have loved a swan to see what I am sure was a nonexistant SVR) HR initially afib 100s...now 80...needless to say, bad feeling continued. Resp. Rate now up to 30s..pt had no sedation on board so I gave just .5 mg ativan, patient appeared more relaxed/RR still 20-30. Went out of room to check on something and came back in pt unresponsive..pupils fixed/dilated...pulse palpable but not great/HR remained 70-80s...code cart in because I could see it coming...called doc while another watched the patient...told him of bad feeling/unresponsiveness, new cyanosis, questionable pulse...Hung up-pt asystole...aaahhhh! Got her back, but never responsive..lots of epi/max dopamine/vasopression at max...not a good BP...pt still had rhythm and pulse was difficult to palpate... ABG showed (new) metabolic acidosis pH 6.9...Doc talked to family changed to no code...I called time of death approxiamtely 3 hours after code after watching hr dwindle down all night (Personally I think PEA for last hour or so because she was sooooo mottled, etc..) Family was able to be with her for those 3 hours. Even though I saw this coming, it is still a bummer when the patient dies...It always hurts to see the family hurting...



4,516 Posts

just hope that the non-nurses reading our posts are not shocked, offended or put off....nurses and related folks deal with this stuff and have to vent.

Also have too many strange and wonderful death experiences I could relate...could write a book. (maybe we should)

When I read the title of this thread the first thought I had was surgeons who refuse to admit their patient died in surgery...and roll a corpse into ICU ...praying we don't notice they're dead I guess.


ktwlpn, LPN

3,844 Posts

Specializes in LTC,Hospice/palliative care,acute care.

I have had a few notable experiences of my own but I read about one last year that made me bawl like a baby.It was in a book of first person accounts of September 11-the entire book was very hard to read-you can't fathom the horrible things those people saw...One of the stories was (I think) by an EMT who arrived at the scene immediatly after the first plane hit-he saw a well coiffed and perfectly made up middle aged lady-earrings,lip stick and all-lying right the base of the Towers-his feeling was that she actually fell out of the plane...She had her eyes open and spoke to him but was only about 2/3 of an upper torso-I have to find the book and post the title..She knew he was triaging and wrote her off and she told him "I am NOT dead"...very clearly and more then once-and then she closed her eyes and died.....I have NEVER seen anything that can come close to this one.....


6 Posts

We had a pt come into the ER, where I work, as a cpr in progress. We worked the code and called it. The family came in to say their goodbyes, and left about an hour later. Meanwhile, I was in helping out in the room next door with a pt who was fairly stable. I went back to help with postmortem care where we discovered he had a pulse and a terrific bp in the 120's. We decided not to extubate, and called the doctor back into the room. At that moment my lady next door dropped her pressure and a few minutes later started compressions. needless to say she died. We just joked that God got our patients mixed up.


1,041 Posts

Originally posted by Flygirl05

We just joked that God got our patients mixed up.

Lol, sometimes God does mix'em up. But the Grim Reaper never makes a mistake. Young or old, sick or well, the GR welcomes us all when we see Him :-) Lol.

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