Saturday, April 18, 2009

Final Breaths

I'm on-call for most of this weekend and have made 3 visits today so far. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my Saturday. At the same time, I know I was able to help these families so that makes it worth it.

"Betsy" was actively dying and the family was a little anxious about her comfort level and what to expect. The nurses were all busy so Sam, our triage RN, sent me out. The family was amazing! They told me wonderful stories about Betsy- she was quite the dynamo up until this past month. She traveled all over the world, sang in European cathedrals and for Mayor Richard Daley, and raised her 5 children in a former mobster's home. This is a very musical family and they took their talent in an unusual, tender direction. Betsy's breathing was erratic when I arrived. At times her respirations were relaxed and regular, a few minutes later she would have apnea. Back and forth. If someone new came into the room, her breathing became regular. Then she'd go back to the apnea before snapping out of that. Her son joked that this was her 20th rally. At one point, Betsy's exhaling breath made a sound that had a harmonic tone to it. Her daughter, a music therapist, picked up on this right away. She and her sister started harmonizing to Betsy's exhalations. Soon enough, their brother joined in creating a perfect 4-part harmony. It was incredibly moving! I told them that I've never witnessed anything like it but I was sure their mom appreciated this musical gift. I stayed with the family for about an hour and a half. The family knew that Betsy was ready to go and that whatever happened next was between her and God. I left to go on my next visit. Forty-five minutes later Sam called to let me know that Betsy had died. I imagine she's singing in heaven.

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