There was a patient being cared for in the ICU for a month with end-stage pulmonary issues. He initially made progress but then began a steady decline and was unable to tolerate minimal life activities without intense shortness of breath. The ICU team spent a lot of time with the patient and family helping them choose a plan of care. The patient chose to not be resuscitated and ultimately wanted to remove his oxygen all together and be made comfortable. The ICU staff developed a significant bond with this patient and family and admired their strength and courage. The patient wanted to spend one last weekend with his family on his own terms. The ICU and Respiratory staff made every effort to compassionately honor his end of life requests.
While the ICU team was waiting for this patient's family to arrive from out of state, they had time to talk with him about his life and his family. It was clear how much he adored his family, and he mentioned that he had some young grandchildren. One nurse was trying to think of ways to make the experience less upsetting for his family when they arrived, so she asked more about them. The patient told her that he had a tradition of eating Oreos with his grandkids every time they visited at home, but instead of just giving them the Oreos, he would hide packages of them all around the house like an Easter egg hunt. His tradition with his own children was that they would drink a little scotch together every now and then. He and his wife also owned horses. The nurse made a trip to the retail pharmacy across the street from the hospital and bought a bunch of Oreos, mugs for the scotch, and two little unicorns for him to give to his wife as a last present because she couldn't find horses. She hid the Oreos all around the room while he was sleeping so that he would be surprised when he woke up. The respiratory therapist went to pediatrics to scout out decorating supplies, and she and the rest of the nurses helped to cut out paper hearts to decorate the room while the patient was sleeping.
When he woke up, he was so excited that there was a surprise that he could share with each member of his family. The nurse, leading this effort, was able to watch the grandchildren do the Oreo hunt in the patient's room. Pediatrics also gave the ICU a light up wand, which the patient thought was just the best thing. He had so much fun showing it to his grandkids. When the family first arrived, everyone looked so anxious. The nurse escorted the family into the room to an experience that was fun instead of scary, and the grandchildren got to do something that was familiar to them. These activities provided a great deal of comfort for his wife.
Letter from the wife:
“Dear ICU staff,
I don't know where to begin, or how to thank you for the exceptional care and support that you gave to my husband, myself, and our family. You have my deepest gratitude for making him feel so special. I know he appreciated all of you. He told me so every day when I came to visit. I will never forget how the night shift decorated his room with all of the handmade hearts, his special card, my unicorns, the cups, the magic wand and the hidden Oreo cookies for our grandsons. You are an amazing group and whenever I see a heart, I will always think of you. My husband was a very special man, proud, loving, caring and hard to forget. I know you will think of him when someone says you are a good girl, or you have an Oreo cookie or maybe a ginger ale. You made his last weekend just the way he wanted to be remembered. Thank You for your support and love."