elderly manIt was winter break mid freshman year and I just signed on to a visiting nurse agency as a home health aid. My first assignment was with a nice, quiet, elderly gentleman named Paul*. He was recently d/c from the hospital s/p CVA. He was staying at his daughter’s home when I was called in to keep watch over him and tend to his basic care. His daughter was a nurse who reported that he had been doing well since being d/c and felt that he was on the road to recovery. She reported no Hemiparesis. She was going to work and just thought it would be a good idea to have someone home with him to make his dinner and help him to bed.

Paul was tired. He said he was still exhausted from his hospital stay where the alarms and hustle and bustle kept him up. He felt it was unnecessary for me to be there but appreciated me helping with his dinner. Paul was able to ambulate around the house with a cane without assistance and I had asked him if he was using the cane before his last hospital stay and he had been using it for several years. He refused any help changing for bed but just the same I stayed in the next room and asked if all was alright. Paul’s bed was set up in his daughter’s dining room to avoid him climbing the stairs. Paul allowed me to enter the room and see that is was well tucked into bed and was looking forward to sleep.

Shortly after he went to bed I hear him call to me so I rushed in to see him. Paul tried to get some words out as he lay in bed but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. At that moment I noticed his eyes roll back into his head and he became unresponsive. Instinct took over as I rolled him onto his side. I remembered learning that in this situation what looked like it could be a seizure or stroke, where I knew there wasn’t any spinal trauma, that there is a chance of vomiting and aspirating. Then I proceeded to call 9-1-1. I told them who I was, who I was with, what was happening, and the address where I was. Paul was breathing and had a regular pulse. I remember being so nervous. I described the scene to the 9-1-1 operator who instructed me to roll him onto his side. “I, I, I,” I stuttered. “I already did that!” I exclaimed. The only thing left to do was to stay with Paul until EMS arrived.

Paul did vomit while still unresponsive as we waited. EMS arrived and took over.

I cared for Paul as best as I could with only Nursing 101 under my belt. The agency called me the next day to say they spoke to Paul’s daughter and was aware of the incident and had listened to the 9-1-1 recording. Paul was in the ICU. The nurse at the agency was very nice asked if I was okay and interested in picking up more shifts.

Hindsight I did my best and feel good about the care I gave to Paul. However, I wish I had had the thought to grab some linens to cover the dining room rug. Oh, well…that’s okay, patients come first.

*Names changed

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