Friday, 5 June 2015

A Bad Death


I noted with some sadness that the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy died following what his family described as an "alcohol related hemorrhage." I hope that his cause of death wasn't a ruptured oesophageal varice, but unfortunately I suspect that  it was.
This depresses me greatly as Charles Kennedy always struck me as a sweet natured and principled politician.
I have only seen one death from a ruptured oesophageal varice and I never want the experience again. It was a 45 year old woman who had been brought into hospital with acute liver failure, and unbeknownst to me as a junior student nurse, her cirrhotic liver had caused a back up of blood to the blood vessels feeding from the junction of her stomach and windpipe
As I helped the charge nurse slide the woman from trolley to bed, she gave a little cough. She then said something like " oh no" very quietly and suddenly the entire bed was filled with blood. She coughed again and what I can only describe as a tidal wave of blood erupted from her mouth and I just stood there opened mouthed as the woman literally bled to death in front of me.
It all happened within, what seemed like ,a couple of seconds.
Another experienced nurse raced over with a morphine syringe as the alarm bells went off and the arrest team was called and she dragged  some spare sheets and blankets from a nearby bed and threw them at me
" put them on the floor around the bed" she hissed quickly and then I understood.
The bedclothes were to dam the blood from spreading across the ward floor.
There was nothing we could do.
I was soaked in blood by the time the charge nurse told me to clean up and get a cup of tea and
I remember stripping into pair of  borrowed theatre scrubs in the staff toilets, sobbing in shock.
The poor, poor woman and poor Charles Kennedy, they both deserved better than that


61 comments:

  1. It is unbelievable how much blood a human body contains. It is unbelievably shocking when it comes out in such a way.

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  2. My brother in law died like this. It was awful. And the build up to getting to this stage was even worse.

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  3. My dad was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle man alive. He died at 47 from cirrhosis of the liver, having battled alcoholism from his 20s. He had a difficult upbringing and I think this was his way of escaping from the mental pain of it. Rest in peace Charles Kennedy, you were obviously a lovely man too.

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  4. Sending you a hug, it's an awful way to go & an awful thing to witness xx

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    1. It was a long long time ago

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  5. I believe he was a good man and was saddened to hear he had died.

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  6. You put such a graphic image in my head as I read your words, John.... you have such a way with words. Vx

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  7. A cup of tea. A nice bit of normality in a fraught situation. x

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  8. That was one experience a student nurse will never forget, for sure. That you stayed with nursing after that demonstrates a tender and caring being.

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  9. I had to look it up. I quit reading at the part about a first responder stopping the bleeding. I had a feeling it would be that way. How very sad for everyone.

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  10. You may well be correct, John, though it could be a myriad of other alcohol related bleeds.....cerebral is a fairly common one, diffuse hemorrhagic areas that diagnose as stroke. A esophageal varices would not be my method of choice for an exit.

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    1. Yes...perhaps the wording in the press hit nerve with me

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  11. Sounds like a bad way to go - although quicker than some. I wonder which is really worse. I read once that only something like 2% of people die peacefully in their sleep. That leaves an awful lot of us facing a certain amount of suffering on our way out.

    To witness that as a student nurse, though ... no wonder you remember it.

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    1. Jenny , it was quick....i guess if quickness is the important factor......then it wasnt a bad death

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  12. A horrible death indeed! My paternal grandmother, whom I never knew, died that way with her two soon-to-be orphaned teenage children looking on. A very sad way to go...and what a shame to lose a politician with principles so soon and so sadly.

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  13. I don't think people understand how drink can get a hold on some people John. They think it is all a matter of control, but we need to sypathise with anyone who has this kind of compulsion that they really can't control. As you say - a lovely man and a loving man - probably his death was as you say - it doesn't bear thinking about. I suppose we must take a little comfort from the fact that he is at peace now, although it is small comfort when he had so much to give.

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    1. The interesting thing is that so many fellow MPs , journalists, public members, et etc across the board found him to be so sweet....
      I hope he knew that he was so loved and respected before he died

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  14. If you want to write about your experiences, go right ahead. But to make the connection with Charles Kennedy doesn't sit right with me. Lets leave the lovely man, and his family, in peace. What if his son starts googling his name and finds you?

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    1. I am sure there is much worse things written elsewhere....as i said , i liked the man and his politics but point taken.

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    2. I wont pull the post though

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    3. I'm not sure there's worse things to find... waves of blood? It's okay, I'm not asking you to pull the post - it's your blog - maybe only use his initials?
      Oh well, it's up to you of course, I know you mean perfectly well, but at times of sickness and death, privacy, espec. with young children involved, is a valuable thing. I don't see the point of naming a public figure by name when something this tragic happens.
      But you know me, I can be critical sometimes, but it´s well intended.

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    4. I reckon that the newspapers will pick up on this and give similar levels of graphic analysis linking Charles Kennedy's' name anyway. This will be much easier for his son to find in years to come. Maybe descriptions of the likely way that this tremendously good man's 's died might halt others in their tracks and stop them going the same way. First hand experience of the awful effects of excessive alcohol shocked me into thinking about my own drinking habits and cutting right back.

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. Elsewhere
      No initials .....i've re read the blog and comments
      Everything stays

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    7. Another perspective on this, for what it's worth:

      Writing this post gave someone I love closure after 40+ years of not knowing. The Great Scot's father died when the G.S. was only three, he barely remembers him, and no one would tell him anything as he got older. All he knew was the little bit his grandmother shared before she died,,, that his father drank heavily, had 'trouble' with his liver, and a great deal of blood was involved.
      He'd been following the story of Mr. Kennedy's passing, and I told him of your post. Finally, he knows what happened to his father (matching your description with what his grandmother said) and whilst it isn't pleasant, not knowing is far worse.
      For my sweetheart, I thank you.

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  15. Oh My Goodness, I hope that is not what he had.

    cheers, parsnip

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  16. I suspect that we all have our demons. Drink was Mr. Kennedy's, a genuinely committed politician from a very young age. I also suspect that losing his seat in his constituency in May was the proverbial straw for him.

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  17. A very pretty and young friend of mine was walking around a supermarket a few years ago, not knowing she had a very mild and small lesion in her stomach which was slowly and harmlessly building up a volume of blood until her stomach rejected it.

    She just went 'bleargh' once, and a great gush of blood splattered all over the floor, to the horror of other shoppers.

    She was fine, but it's amazing how large an area a quarter of a pint of blood can cover when spread thinly and quickly over a smooth floor in public. Poor Kennedy's if this was their fate.

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    1. Hummm now i understand the blankets on the floor more

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    2. Good thing you had your hat to stuff up your nose that day.

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  18. What a dreadful thing for you to see. Of course you remember. How could you not?. My mother was an alcoholic and it was her life which haunts me.

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  19. I liked Charles Kennedy very much.he had principles and stuck to them.A lovely intelligent and witty man.very sad .

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  20. And that is why you are a good nurse! You care.

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  21. He cut his hand on a broken whisky tumbler.

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    1. That was william Holden

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    2. I thought it was time to lighten things up a bit.

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    3. Here here.........

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  22. Replies
    1. I've just given you another one on TS's comment.

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    2. I read them... Mommy and daddy are fighting again!

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    3. Ha ha. No I meant here, about your hat and your nose bleed.

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    4. Never mind. I liked Charles Kennedy. He was fun on Have I got News for You.

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    5. C P Snow for John Gray who needs a laugh: "Winston Churchill is not an alcoholic. No alcoholic could drink that much."
      Seriously, this is piece of wisdom. Alcoholics, at least the ones I've known personally, seem to top-themselves-up as
      it were. It doesn't take a lot to get them drunk. The real big drinkers of my acquaintance, the guys who could knock it back all night before showing signs of being worse for wear could not have been alcoholics, or they would have been in a coma, and not fighting drunk, or sleeping it off in the corner, or going to the Indian for a chicken curry and even more beer.

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  23. Good and compassionate post. We need to know about such things.

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  24. I would have remembered a death like that, too, John. RIP Mr Kennedy.

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  25. Nothing like 'getting your feet wet' as a student, John! How you nurses do it, I don't know.....dedicated lot you are.

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  26. My sister-in-law died last month of alcohol related issues. She was suffering from liver failure and placed on life support. After a month, she was gone. Poor souls. Alcoholism is a terrible disease.

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  27. Good gawd....I repeat what I wrote a few days back; this is why I admire nurses so much.

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  28. An early and cruel departure he didn't deserve - and neither did we to even think of it as possible. Peace on you, Mr Kennedy.

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  29. I'm in shock... But I think it's like a public service shock. Reminding us all to watch out with alcohol. Not a gratuitous shock.
    I was sorry to hear he died. I always liked him.

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  30. Surprising the number of people who know someone who died this way, my X's uncle did. He was a wonderful old closet case, who never came to terms with being gay, and drank to hide from himself. A truly terrible way to go,at his funeral I couldn't stop thinking how sad that he was never comfortable with who he was and what a terrible impact it had on him, helped me to come to terms with who I am.

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  31. Not being on the spot this story escaped my notice. After reading your account I read the report in the Independent. It seems our politicos get their booze cut price in the Commons bars and they are open all hours.

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  32. I should not have read this first thing in the morning. So horrible and so sad.

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  33. Amazing what the human body is capable of, but also impressive the spirit of some nurses. Ones like you are a gem.
    I do not know this Kennedy gentleman, but I feel for his family and dear God I hope he did not go this way in front of them.

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  34. Thanks for sharing great article

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