He was 84 years old, a resident of Fairlawn Acres for going on ten years, eight years ago a new resident came to live at there and he fell in love, eventually they married at a small ceremony right there on the lawn of the nursing home, attended by family, staff and fellow residents. It was the event of the summer at Fairlawn Acres. For seven years now he had shared a large room on the residential care section of the home with the love of his life. About a week ago they told him that his beloved wife only had a few days to live due to an exacerbation of one of her chronic conditions. The dementia had rendered her pleasantly confused for the past six months and so after conferring with her children they decided to keep her comfortable and make her last few days on Earth happy ones. The day came when she passed on and understandably he became saddened, today he buried her and returned home to his empty room at Fairlawn Acres, he declined his supper, telling the staff that he just didn’t have much of an appetite today and so after the staff got him settled in he sat down in his favorite chair and tried his best to read from a book.
The staff called on him all evening, checking on him, making sure he was okay. Naturally he had been quite melancholy for most of the day so no one gave it much thought when he nodded off in his chair, the book in his lap until it came time for his evening medications, he didn’t want to take them and he even though he skipped his supper he didn’t want his usual evening snack and so they left him be making sure to check on him periodically. About an hour later when one of the CNAs came to check on him he was slow to answer her and waved her off saying he was tired and just wanted to sleep, she sat with him for a while and over the course of their conversation he became increasingly lethargic, she checked his blood sugar and took his vitals and then called his son and called 911. By the time we arrived he would only mumble and wave us away, his blood pressure had fallen, his pulse had slowed and a slow stream of tears fell from his eyes.
Though we all knew the diagnosis before running any test he got the standard workup for someone with increasing lethargy. As we all suspected everything came back negative yet his pulse remained slow and became slower with time and his blood pressure never recovered. Unfortunately there is no code in the ICD-9 for a broken heart. It seemed as though the nurses and CNAs and doctors had an unspoken agreement to take turns sitting with him and his son. A couple hours later while dropping off another patient we checked in on him to see how he was doing, he had stopped responding to anyone and his son sat there by his side, holding his father’s hand while the now frail man could be heard faintly whispering his dear wife’s name over and over, quieter and quieter until finally he sighed a sigh of relief and let out his last breath.