*Note: names have been changed to protect identity of individuals
She came in from the ER around 2am. The gurney cluttered with blankets, her belongings. No family with her, no friends. After moving her to the bed, she stated she was cold. “I’m going to hook you up to the heart monitor Mrs. Davis, take your vitals and I will get you a warm blanket”. I was sincere in my promise. Such a sweet woman. I bet she was the best grandma.
I took her vitals; blood pressure, temperature, pulse, oxygen saturation. All normal. The I.V. was checked, admission questions asked. “I’m so cold” she repeated. The ER is always cold. They put you in a skimpy gown, in the spotlight with cold blankets. No dignity there.
“Let me go get you that warm blanket” I said. “Oh thank you dear, that would be lovely”. I headed down the hall to the Anex room. I entered the code and went to the blanket warmer. I took the middle blanket out, they were usually the warmest.
I came back into the room. “Here is your blanket Mrs. Davis. Let’s put it under the other blankets to keep the heat in”. As I was saying this, I was pulling the other blankets down. I tucked her in gently and said, “This should warm you up”. “Oh this feels wonderful, I’m so cold” she said again. Her look changed.
“Mrs. Davis”? I asked her.
She had grown pale, no response. By now I could hear the heart monitors at my desk ringing. The other nurses heard my panic and came running. She had the blue bracelet on. No Code. There was no saving her. It was over.
I burst into tears. One of the other nurses put her arm around me.
“Oh my gosh I killed her”. “Death by warm blanket”. “OH MY GOSH” By now I was uncontrollably sobbing. I loved my patients. I had great joy in comforting them. But not this.
“NO, NO, NO” she said, “you did just the opposite, you gave her comfort and she let go”.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this, she was just talking to me”.
“What did she say”?
“I put a warm blanket on her and she told me how good it felt and then she was gone”.
“You comforted her”.
Just like that, she was gone. No warning, no pain. Just a thank you and a smile on her face. I cried. I wrote my report. I cried. I cried some more. What a horrible night.
This happened over 15 years ago and I still cry when I tell this story. To think a warm blanket was enough comfort for one to let go of life. To let go and be happy. Her last words, thank you, oh this feels wonderful. She smiled….she smiled….she let go. It took me years to get over this. It took me weeks to accept I gave her comfort. It hit me, and it hit me hard.
The power of a warm blanket. The power of a gentle touch. The last moments, engraved in my mind will be with me forever. The power of warmth.