When I worked in the ICU, I worked nights. Normally, it's as busy as days - emergencies come up, dementia patients become disoriented, critical patients mysteriously have perfect timing to start crashing.
This particular night, it was the "q" word. We learn never to speak it's name. The place wasn't full of patients. I had 1 stable patient and the other was iffy. The iffy patient never had family visits. I went into her room to assess and spend some time with her. She had dementia, but tonight she seemed incredibly lucid.
I peeked in on my other patient, stable and sleeping. The other nurses were reading books and playing on the computer. It was a "q" night.
I went back into my patient's room and sat down to talk with her. It looked like she hasn't been bathed in a long time, she smelled bad and was completely disheveled. Personally, I can't stand that. Wherever she came from, they weren't doing a very good job of taking care of her. You can just tell by her hygiene.
I ran around getting all of my items to clean her up. I spent over an hour in her room washing her hair, doing mouth care (which I absolutely hate doing because it's one of my weaknesses - oral care. It can be disturbingly gross.), bathing, changing her gown and bedding. I had a nurse come in and check on me because I had been gone so long.
Once I was done, she looked good. She actually didn't look as sick as she was. We talked about her life and she told me some interesting stories about her past. I joked that she looked so good right now, we should go have a night on the town. She agreed and said when she felt better, she wants me to drive her to a place where she can sing again. I told her I'd be back on shift in 2 days and I would see what we could do about singing. She was happy and thanked me for a nice night. She fell fast asleep.
When I returned to the ICU two days later, I didn't see her. Her room had another patient in it. I asked the day nurse during handoff report where was Mrs. So and so?
"Oh, she died yesterday morning."
She died a few hours after our beauty salon night.
I was sad, but I felt comforted knowing that her last night on this earth was a good one. I was happy that we had that time together.