TikTok nurse reveals patients' last words before they die

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A palliative care nurse in the US has gone viral after revealing the heartwarming things she's heard people say to loved ones before they die.

Julie McFadden, who lives in California, regularly posts videos about working in end-of-life care, hoping to educate and normalise death and dying through her videos.

Her videos — which have amassed millions of views — have gone viral, but there's one thing people keep coming back to: the most common thing people say before they pass away.

“There is something most people say before they die," she revealed. 

"It’s usually ‘I love you’ or they call out to their mum or dad — who have usually already died."

Side by side image of Julie (blonde hair in blue scrubs) in screenshots taken from her TikTok videos.
Julie McFadden has been sharing what she's seen as a hospice nurse on TikTok. Source: TikTok

Four 'normal' things that happen before death

Ms McFadden — who has worked as a hospice nurse for five years — explained changes in breathing, changes in skin colour, terminal secretions and fevers were all common things she sees in patients before they pass away.

"The symptoms of the actively dying phase include changes in consciousness (unconscious), changes in breathing, mottling and terminal secretions," she explained in a TikTok video.

“These are normal and NOT painful or uncomfortable.

“Our bodies take care of ourselves at the end of life — the less we intervene, the better.”

The nurse also explained a phenomenon she and other medical professionals commonly see called 'The Rally', which occurs when someone is close to death but suddenly appears to get better hours or days before death.

"This is when someone is really sick and almost towards actively dying, meaning dying within a few days, and then suddenly they look like they are 'better'," she explained.

"This can manifest in a lot of ways, but a lot of times they suddenly eat, they'll suddenly talk, maybe even walk, they act like their old self, they have a little more personality, kind of laughing, talking, joking, but they usually die within a few days after this," she added.

Ms McFadden said many patients also report being surrounded by loved ones — dead and alive — before they pass away.

"It usually happens a month or so before the patient dies, they start seeing dead relatives, dead friends, old pets that have passed on, spirits, angels, that are visiting them and only they can see them," she said.

"They're usually not afraid, it's usually very comforting to them and they usually say they're sending a message like 'we're coming to get you soon' or 'don't worry, we'll help you'. Most people love this, they're very comforted by it, it's not scary to them."

Hopes to educate people about death

Ms McFadden said she was "amazed" when her videos went viral, explaining she started her TikTok account as she felt it was important to share her experiences as a hospice nurse. 

"I’ve always talked to my friends and family about death and dying, so it makes me so happy, to see that others seem to be interested as well," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"Death will touch everyone in our lives, it’s a part of life. It’s been so validating to see that people do really want to learn."

Although she admits her job is difficult, Ms McFadden loves being able to educate people about the reality of hospice.

"It truly feels like you're doing good in the world," she said.

"It feels so good to truly connect with somebody on such a vulnerable level, and to be there for someone during a scary time, and to help it seem less scary is a true honour.

"The best part about my job is educating patients and families about death and dying as well as supporting them emotionally and physically.

"Part of why I started this page was so people could learn how to talk about death and accept the inevitable." 

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