Sunday, June 26th, Jeff continued to rest at home. We were so very grateful that his pain seemed completely managed and we didn’t have to fret about his hurting.
The hospice nurse visited around 10:00 a.m. and considering the circumstances, Jeff was “ok”. His oxygen levels were actually up, his heart rate and pulse checked good, his hands and feet were warm as opposed to being cool or cold, his breathing was normal for the situation, and there was no mottling on his skin.
Although the nurse mentioned that not all patients are there same, she saw no imminent signs of death.
Jeff slept comfortably throughout the day and the hospice CNA made her visit around 3:00 p.m. The CNA assisted in our cleaning Jeff up a bit and changing his shirt. This was uncomfortable for him, however, we were as gentle as we could possibly be and the CNA was efficient. Jeff’s shirt was quickly changed and he was promptly comfortable again.
Prior to her departure, the CNA noted that Jeff sounded as if the onset of terminal respiratory secretions (aka, death rattle) was settling in. At the time, it was so mild that neither Channing or I had heard the noise nor did we notice any change in his breathing.
Terminal respiratory secretions is a sound often produced by someone who is near death when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest.
The CNA reiterated that, if in fact it was the death rattle, it causes no distress to the patient. She went on to say that it can be distressing to loved ones as it can sound terribly dreadful, but the patient is not suffering.
She called in a prescription that would help and we were advised to administer should he progress.
Our day was mostly uneventful.
Around 10:00 p.m. Jeff was due for pain medication. I also noticed that his breathing had slightly changed and he was making more of a gurgling noise. As he could no longer take pills, all of his medications had been switched to liquid and a dissolvable pill. ￼
When giving Jeff his medications we were always able to rouse him and while he was unable to speak, he would make efforts to make eye contact with us, and he would normally softly grunt or moan acknowledging he understood what we were doing for him.
This time, however, I had great difficulty rousing him and getting an acknowledgement. I worried about his aspirating on the medicine. I also worried about his being in pain if I was unable to administer the medication.
Thankfully, I finally managed, and I ensured he swallowed, however, I remained concerned as he was obviously declining more.
By 12:50, Monday, June 27th, there was a significant change in how Jeff sounded. The aforementioned “gurgling” sounded much more like a rattle. As the administration of his pain medication had been so difficult, I fretted over giving him additional medication.
Overwhelmed with uncertainty, I hovered over him contemplating the next right move. It was then that the secretions he could no longer swallow poured from his right nostril.
I gently wiped Jeff’s sweet face and then woke Channing. Drake and Brittany both work overnight so I called and asked them to come back to Jeff’s.
Channing, Drake, Brittany, and myself were all here surrounding Jeff, holding his hands and soothing him with soft touches. For approximately the next 1.5 hours, we sat telling stories and sharing precious memories. We told him we’d be ok and it was ok that he go. We told him how much we loved him, how brave he had been throughout this journey, what an amazing father he was, how grateful we were for him, and that we would forever carry him in our hearts.
Monday, June 27￼, 2:32 a.m., our beloved Jeffrey Thomas Gallagher quietly passed taking pieces of our hearts with him and knowing he was so very loved.
We remain grateful for the support, prayers, donations, and love we have received over the past 18 months. We will never be able to adequately say “thank you”, but please know our sincere gratitude runs deep.
Many times people have commented that they don’t know how I make it through writing Jeff’s updates. I could only think of 1 reply … His story matters.
Jeff ❤️ 6/7/67 ~ 6/27/22