Most people avoid death at any cost. But not Julie McFadden, a hospice nurse in California who went viral on TikTok to talk about what happened at the end of her life.
McFadden, possibly better known as TickTock and hospice nurse Julie on Twitter, started making videos on Ticket about six months ago after his nieces introduced him to the platform. He now boasts more than 413,000 followers on the video sharing platform
McFadden told USA Today, “I knew I wanted to get the information out in general. I thought it was a very taboo subject that should be banned so much.” “I think I made three or four TikToks and four days later, one of them blew up. It keeps happening again and again.”
One of those videos discusses an event called “The Rally” Hospice patients will suddenly feel that they are getting better – some start eating again, some start walking again and others start talking or laughing.
However, the explosion of energy is short-lived. Many patients die within hours or days of “The Rally”.
“It probably happened to about a third of our hospice patients,” McFadden said in the video. “It’s so much that we try to educate the family about it before it happens so that it doesn’t ruin them when they suddenly leave after doing so well for a few days.”
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The technical term for the event is terminal lucidity, and it is difficult to know how often it occurs, says Dr. Christopher Kerr, a hospice physician for 23 years.
“I don’t think there are really good numbers out there,” Kerr said. “Of course it’s safe to say it’s not unusual.”
McFadden talks about other unspoken incidents in his video, including an incident where patients say they see dead relatives, friends and even pets until a month before they pass.
The experience is not usually scary for the patient, McFadden explained in his video.
“It’s usually very comforting for them. They usually say they’re sending a message like ‘We’ll get to you soon’ or ‘Don’t worry. We’ll help you,'” McFadden said.
Kelly Rice, senior coordinator of social work at Tidwell Hospice, said she has seen both cases of working with her 11-year-old hospice patients. One such experience with a patient is always stuck with him, he said.
“A gentleman who could clearly see the children. What I learned from his wife was that they had experienced several miscarriages in the beginning and had never had children,” Rice said.
According to research conducted by Kerr and his team, the experience is actually very common.
“What we’ve found is that most people, about 90% of people, can report at least one very specific experience, usually in the last weeks of life, which is usually lively, comforting and very meaningful,” Kerr said.
But what is true for a hospital patient is not true for everyone, and their experiences are often very different, Rice said.
McFadden said she has worked as a nurse for 14 years, first as a nurse in the intensive care unit “nine or 10 years” before being converted to hospice nursing. It was in the ICU where he became passionate about death and wanted to educate others about it as well.
McFadden declined to name his job because of confidentiality.
“I’ve just noticed that there’s a gap between treating the whole person and finding out what the patient’s family really wants in the long run,” McFadden said.
McFadden says the response to his videos has been mostly positive. Most people are curious to know more and this has connected them to a whole online community of other people whose jobs are involved in death.
And while many have never imagined being so close to death, McFadden will do nothing more.
“Being able to provide someone with answers and comfort and care and help make that process easier, it feels like a gift,” McFadden said.