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What is the 'death rattle'?

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Old 10-21-2003, 06:51 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Ballston Spa, NY USA
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mephoto HB User
Question What is the 'death rattle'?

Hi everyone,

Question...what is the death rattle? Has anyone ever heard of this? Dad had a gurguling sound coming from his throat yesterday for a couple of hours, they thought the end was near but a few hours later it was gone. Is this typical? Does this rattle come and go? How long before the end?

He is still in the hospice unit at our local hospital, yesterday he was so out of it from the morphine. He is on 3 mg. per hour IV drip, and every 2-4 hours they can inject 10mg. Is this a high dose??? I would just like to hear other peoples experience with these two topics. I just want to know how close we are to the end. It is breaking my heart to see him in this condition. I know he will be much more peaceful when he passes. It is wonderful to see him not in pain but not so wonderful to see him so drugged up and unaware of anything around him. Dad is only 60 years old and a non-smoker! This is so unfair!!!

Thank you so much and my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

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Old 10-21-2003, 07:24 AM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Murray Hill, NJ USA
Posts: 3
Michelle40 HB User

Hello medphoto,

My mom was diagnosed in the beginning of June with lung cancer that had spread to her brain and spine. She passed on July 4. She was in the hospital for a total of 2 weeks during that one month period and I was with her when she passed. I did hear the death rattle once and went to get the nurse as I thought she was choking (I wasn't sure what was happening, I just knew that it scared me). She passed a few hours after that. I am very sorry you have to go through this as it is the most difficult thing I have ever had to deal with and am sure you feel the same way. My mom and I were best friends. I look back now and am so glad she didn't have to suffer and died peacefully and not aware of what was happening to her. God bless.

Old 10-21-2003, 07:02 PM   #3
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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 158
LeisaH HB UserLeisaH HB User

hello medphoto...... Not to scare you or anything.... the death rattle is the sound of air escaping the lungs through the airway. Mom had the death rattle for almost 4 hours before she passed. It is scary to hear and very unsettling, to this day, I still can not lose the sound in my brain. My husband, I called him, the morning mom passed and he asked me what that sound was and I said it was mom........ he was silent for oh a couple of minutes, just in shock and searching for something to be said. At this point, really there is nothing to say but good bye to your dad.

Old 10-21-2003, 08:10 PM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Peterborough,Ontario, Canada
Posts: 31
Blackbird HB User

I wanted to reply to this message as I have heard the rattle many times. There is a medication that can be given to help with the sound. It is a fluid buildup, usually the lungs are filling. Can not give you the name of this medication but most Doctors dealing in end of life issues will know what it is.
Sorry that you are going through such a rough time.

Old 10-22-2003, 05:20 AM   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Ballston Spa, NY USA
Posts: 66
mephoto HB User

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the input. This forum is so helpful.

We heard this rattle two days ago. The next morning dad got up, is concious, eating, talking, and looking somewhat OK. He went from not eating at all to eating solids. I just thought the end was coming and coming soon. The nurses in his hospice inn thought that too. Maybe this is a second wind he's getting? I know death is coming for him within the next 2 months, I just don't understand how he could have gotten this second wind after being soooooo sick and gurguling like he did. The gurguling just scarred me to death.

Mom and I are meeting with a social worker and nurse today to see what the plan is for dad. He wants to go home, the docs have not decided on weather to put in a port or a pick line for his morphine drip. I don't know why they have not decided this yet. It makes me think that they don't want to do it because he won't be here much longer to even use the morphine drip at home??? I don't know, we have a meeting today at 4pm with them. If anyone has any ideas on this I would love to hear them.

This has been such an informative forum for me, it is helping me out tremendously. Thank you all for your responses and input. It is helping me more than you know through this difficult time.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all too.

[This message has been edited by medphoto (edited 10-22-2003).]

Old 10-22-2003, 07:37 AM   #6
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: florida
Posts: 777
delrae4753 HB User

when my sister in law was sent home with hopice they had put in a picc line so that the morphine drip could be given in the home so glad they did.It eliminated the need to go back to the hospital. and yes the death rattle is very scarry i heard it the night before she died.I knew the next morning she would die and she did. she did have the picc line put in for the morphine let him die in comfort and peace, you dont want him to suffer in pain. God bless you and your family

[This message has been edited by delrae4753 (edited 10-22-2003).]
To live my life to its fullest and to put all my trust in God.

Old 10-22-2003, 08:36 AM   #7
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Join Date: Oct 2003
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ChazzyBear HB User

I am sooo sorry to hear what you are going thru- my heart goes out to you and yours. Please know you are in our prayers. As I watch these message boards it justs helps me to get stronger to know what I will be dealing with. May GOd bless you and yours

Old 10-22-2003, 11:28 AM   #8
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: scotland
Posts: 67
littletinkerbell HB User

I feel so very sorry that you have to go through this ..
My dad also got a second wind started eating he hadn't eaten anything for two months but he started eating solids again he was joking and laughing with us it was like having him back again then two days later he slipped into a coma and he passed away. The nurses said to us after he died this happens an awful lot they come back to you before they die. Cherish evey minute just now and just hug and love him because it does sound like it wont be long..I am so strong...god bless..
luv maggie

Old 10-23-2003, 04:41 PM   #9
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Location: Omaha NE USA
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kini23 HB User

My heart goes out to you. You are in my prayers.

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