Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Harold ALWAYS Had the Last Word

Harold was in his 80's had CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), Diabetes, and many other health issues. He was a somewhat grumpy old guy. He liked who he liked and if he didn't like you, you were sure to know it.
He was very bloated, full of fluid to the point of weeping. His legs were huge and fluid would seep from his skin. He didn't want them wrapped because he was always hot. His hands and arms were the same way. He would always sit on his bed and face the window (with his back to the door) watching to see who was coming and going from the nursing home he lived in. He always had magazines and such on his bedside table and a radio in his window sill that would play country music. He usually played it pretty loud, upsetting the other residents who lived in the rooms close to him. However, he was so grumpy that he really didn't care that anyone was upset.
One night I was working night shift. This was many many years before becoming and RN. It was myself and one other CNA (Certified Nurse Aide), as well as an LPN taking care of about 56 people. The other CNA (we will call her Shelly) and I worked together alot. Harold was not doing well. He was in bed but very close to death. His wife had been in and said her goodbyes, but just couldn't stand to stay. So Shelly and I decided we better make a good plan for the evening. We started our first bedcheck on his end of the hall since his room was the last one at the end of the hall. We decided when we got to the middle one of us would go back and check on him then continue down the rest of the hall and then check on him again.
Well, he was hangin' in there so we hurried through our bedcheck, went and checked and then when we knew he was ok (or at least still with us), we finished the bedcheck. As we got to the very last room at the complete other end of the hall, we heard Mr. Johnson yelling out. This was not too unusual. Mr. Johnson lived in the room next to Harold and had an ajoining bathroom. Mr. Johnson had dementia in a bad way, was on a low bed (about 6 inches from the ground) and would usually start yelling out when he had fallen out of bed onto the soft mat that lay beside his bed. So, Shelly and I went to put Mr. Johnson back to bed, except when we got to his room, he wasn't on the floor. He was in the bed. And he didn't quit yelling when we got there. I looked at Shelly and said, "We better go check on Harold."

Sure enough as soon as we got to Harolds room, Mr. Johnson stopped yelling. And Harold had passed. It was as if Mr. Johnson was trying to tell us that Harold had died and we needed to do something about it.
The LPN did her thing, called the family, the doctor, and the funeral home. Is this where I should tell you that this was the VERY FIRST person to die that I had to help take care of. See, in a nursing home (here at least), when someone dies, you clean them up and get them ready for the funeral home to come get them, or for the family to come.
Since Harolds wife wasn't coming, we had to get him ready for the funeral home. So Shelly and I gave him a bath, changed his gown, and cleaned his room, gathering all his belongings and bagging them up. We both loved Harold and he actually liked both of us. We both cried our way all the way through this process. To help make it a little easier, we turned Harolds radio on and up to help drown out some of the emotion.
When we left the room, Shelly turned off the radio and unplugged it letting it remain on the window sill where Harold always kept it. The funeral home came to pick him up and as I saw them coming out of his room I said something I will never forget. I didn't even think and had never seen this before. However, the tears started once again when I looked at the funeral director and said, "Don't cover him up that way, he won't be able to breath!" It was not until those words were out of my mouth that I realized that Harold didn't need to worry about not being able to breath anymore. However it was a good laugh for the funeral director, Shelly and the LPN that was standing right there.
After they left, Shelly and I hurried around to get caught up on the rest of our work. By this time it was time for another bedcheck. We started at the opposite end of the hall from where Harolds room was. When we got the middle we heard music and it was really really loud. We both started walking looking for where it was coming from so we could tell the resident that had it on to turn it down. It was the middle of the night and people were sleeping. When we got the the source of the music, it was Harolds room. His radio was playing! It still sat in the window, still sat unplugged but was playing. Neither one of us could believe it! Shelly checked to see if there were batteries in it, but there wasn't. She tried to turn it off but it wouldn't, it would turn down. Even when it clicked it didn't turn off. So we left it alone and it remained playing softly.

We were both quiet freaked out to say the least! Then we just decided that Harold needed to have the last say. He always needed to have the last say! So this was probably his way of telling us "Goodbye" or maybe his way of saying "F-off!" (as he would put it) to all the residents that got mad when he played his radio.
Who knows what is true. . . What I do know is that Harold will not soon be forgotten!!!



  1. You know what? If I hadn't spent so many years in healthcare and working with seniors, I would not have believed this story.

    But, I know that kind of stuff happens. . . in fact, was I working at the same place with you, when that happened. . . I know names are different, but it isn't common to have radios playing like that just everywhere.
    Nurse. . . you do have some great stories. . . Love them all!

  2. I've seen stuff like this. There are somethings ya just can't explain.

  3. Pastor Sharon, Yes the names have been changed to protect the dead. I am glad however that you can validate such a crazy story!

    Grumpy, MD - You are so right!! I have more stories to tell later on this blog about the weird and supernatural at that same nursing home! Made for some eventful night shifts!!!

  4. You have the most amazing stories...cool, eerie, funny, sad, and uplifting.

    Totally believe it!

  5. Also, I wanted to thank you for your visits and sweet comments. I wrote a long comment back to you after your post "For the Birds". We were in the middle of a thunderstorm here but I thought I quickly posted it. Apparently not..sorry.

    In short, I totally feel your pain. Pops is without a job. I'm working prn in L&D and with a pediatric home service. In short, we have no benefits. I, too, have been looking and have noticed what you described.

    Lastly, I love your blog. You have the most amazing story telling ability. Your readers are not going anywhere!

  6. Southern Drawl,
    I am glad you enjoy reading my blog! I love digging to the back of my memory bank for stories that I don't ever want to forget.
    I am sorry you and Pops are in the same situation we are as far as the job,however I am glad to hear that it is not just here.
    I wish I had Peds experience I would be doing better job wise right now. Oh well, my resume will be updated by tomorrow and it will be out on the web! Saying prayers!