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Please Help if You Have Dealt with This

MAMcIntosh's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2013

This is a touchy subject because I know that honesty may in fact prove not to provide the comfort I would so like to have.

I laid down beside Mom at about 5:00 this morning, and she passed away in my arms 30 minutes later.  But it was the preceding TWELVE hours that  are tearing me apart.  It was the most horrible thing I have ever had to go through.

She began making "gurgling" noises (what I see refered to as the "death rattle"), and it sounded like she was choking and just fighting for each breath.  We kept suctioning her mouth and we were generous with the morphine.  Occassionally she would sound better, but not for long and would go right back to that.  She opened her eyes a few times, but only very briefly.  Aside from that, they were only barely open it seemed and not looking at anything.  She didn't seem conscious at all.

Just before I laid with her at 5:00, we called the hospice nurse to see if there was anything we could do.  She suggested raising her in the bed and elevating her head, which we did.  We immediately did the suction again and more morphine as her brow then began to crease.  She began breathing better again and was more relaxed.  Then as I said she passed a short while later.

I cannot stand the thought that my Mom was suffering and miserable for so many hours needlessly.  I don't know if the better breathing/relaxation was due to the suctioning/morphine as it had done a few times earlier or if that would have permanenetly taken care of it had we done it earlier, perhaps allowing her to pass earlier.

The nurse assured us that it is often traumatic for the family but not the patient.  I hope that's true and not just to make us feel better.

That sound and what it may have meant are going to haunt me.

dianelynn41's picture
Posts: 71
Joined: Jan 2011

My husband Roby died in February.  He wasnt under hospice care, we didn't know he was going to die that day.  He woke up that morning said he felt like he had the flu and was congested.  I called the dr and they told me what to do for him based on how he was feeling.  We also had had a snow storm during the night and was snowed in and live 35 miles away from hospital.

But a few hours later he started that sound, like he was drowning and his stomach has destinded.  I called the ambulance and a nurse here in town to come help us because he coulddn't breath and i tried to sit him up to help him breath and when that happened he stopped breathing.  CPR was done till he got to the hospital but he was gone.

But I will never forget that sound either or that whole horrible day.  The dr said he had bled out, he had a perforated bowel and somehow it cause bleeding in his stomach and his heart gave out.

He had stage 4 rectal cancer for 2 years 2 months.

I'm still having nightmares about his death and the whole cancer experience.  Hopefully in time it will go away.

Good Luck and I'm sorry for your loss.


wolfen's picture
Posts: 1313
Joined: Apr 2009

Ron had multiple medical problems when he was diagnosed with H&N and Lung Cancer in Oct. 2012. Many complications prevented him from starting treatments until March. He was determined to fight despite the odds. He completed rads for the lung cancer. On April 8, he had his first triple chemo infusion. Despite Neupogen, his WBC dropped dramatically. After the second infusion on April 8, it was almost non-existent. He developed Sepsis and was taken to our local hospital(HATE THIS PLACE) and spent a week in ICU and another week in a regular room where they gave him broad spectrum antibiotics. Upon discharge, he could barely walk and was swollen all over, indicating that he was in CHF despite the fact that some ninny had ok'd the discharge. Six hours later, I put him in a cab and took him to the hospital that his Cardiologist uses. He was in renal failure and heart failure because the local hospital doc had failed to give him his diuretic. He was put on a machine similar to dialysis to remove the excess water from his system and given more antibiotics as the Sepsis was still in his system. A nurse called me on the morning of April 29 to say that he wanted off the blood machine and just wanted to get on to rehab. Two hours later, when I arrived, he had been taken to ICU. He'd had a G-tube since February and could no longer even drink water without choking. He had vomited, aspirated into his lungs, and developed pneumonia. He was unconscious and fighting for breath. I saw him for about a minute before he was intubated. During the course of the next five days, I was forced to make the decision whether or not to remove the ventilator. Five doctors had told me there was no hope. I knew in my heart that he would not have wanted to live his life this way. All of his systems were failing and a machine was breathing for him.

My son & I knew that he would have wanted to die at home. My daughter had come from across the country(she is a Stage IV Colon Cancer survivor/fighter) to be with us. In a brief, lucid moment , he saw her there & a tear rolled down his cheek. Hospice arranged for a portable ventilator to transport him home in an ambulance. The ventilator was removed and Hospice stayed with us for the next nineteen hours as he took one less breath each hour. They kept him comfortable and it appeared the rough breathing only happened when he was laying on his left side, so he was simply allowed to remain on his right. For what it's worth, I don't believe he was suffering as we were. I simply think a higher power was cradling him. The saddest moment of my life was holding the hand of the man, who had held my heart for 41 years, as he took his final breath.

My heart goes out to each of you.



grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

First I am so sorry for your loss. I hate that phrase having heard it so many times after my husband's death, but I don't know any that is any better. After losing someone we love, us caregivers always seem to face the coulda, woulda, shouldas. All we can do is accept that we did the best we could at the time. My husband passed away while I was out of the room. My sons think he did that on purpose so it wouldn't be the last moment I had with him. Who knows? We were blessed with a fairly quick  and peaceful passing. There were times during the six years he fought his cancer battle that were very hard watching him in pain. It was his choice to continue fighting, and his choice to stop treatment. We are never really ready for the end, though. It is never enough time with them. I know you were very close to your mother and that this time is very hard. I hope knowing that, for me, time has helped. My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care, Fay

Posts: 23
Joined: May 2010

My mom passed on January 18th at home.  She died in my arms also.  I learned a lot from the doctors and the nurses.  Your mom did not suffer.  I went through the same thing as you.  The gurgling and suctioning.  The doctor says your body releases endorphins when it is close to the end.  He called it "God's pain medicine".  The eyes half opened was a sign of her dying soon.  That was a normal part of the dying process.  Your mom didn't suffer at the end and she knew you were there.  Take great comfort in that.  Also, the "death rattle" is normal when they are soon to leaving this world.  Please try to focus on her life and not the end.  I promise you did everything right.  The morphine is what made her comfortable.  I want you to know that I went through the same thing.  Still cry a lot but I know she is now at peace.  So is your mom.

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