Nurses preserve record of last heartbeat for grieving families

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (WPVI) -- Nurses at a hospital in Utah had no idea a piece of paper could be so meaningful.

The paper is from an EKG, and on it is the record of a patient's final heartbeat. That paper is then given to the grieving family.

The heartfelt practice has now spread to the rest of the hospital.

Registered nurse Tammy Kocherhans will never forget the day they gave out their first heart rhythm strip to a family who lost their loved one at Intermountain Medical Center.

"This 15-year-old boy held it like his lifeline. His heart was breaking. He was completely sobbing. There was nothing we could do for that patient. This poor little family was falling apart. It was heartbreaking," she said.

A simple strip of paper with a final heartbeat is put in a tube.

"To know that he accepted that one last gift, he held it so close, was pretty powerful," said Kocherhans.

It was Lisa Beglarian, a registered nurse at the Respiratory ICU at Intermountain Medical Center, who brought up the idea at that moment. She had gotten that idea on Pinterest.

Each tube has a note.

"It says 'may my heart be a gentle reminder of the love I have for you.' Then it has the RICU which stands for the Respiratory ICU unit. This was a way for us to let our guard down. We care too and affects us too," said Beglarian.

"It's hard on the whole unit when they pass away, It can be very emotional. It's hard on the staff too because your heart is there. It's the lasting gift we can give, a hug and we'd wrap you up in everything we could. I'm a mom and I wanted to hold these kids. I'm so sorry that was the last gift I could give," said Kocherhans.

Beglarian's idea has been shared with fellow caregivers and they all now use the same practice.

Belgarian has even worked to collect expired lab tubes, so no resources are wasted.
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