Tuesday, October 11, 2011


So when you volunteer for hospice they ask if you can commit to at least 6 months because that is the maximum prognosis for a new hospice patient. Granted, some go off and on hospice care as their condition ebbs and flows. But basically, they want you to be there for the patient and the family for at least 6 months.

My first patient was a feisty gal. She was alert and fairly perky for one dealing with pancreatic cancer. I had visited with her 3 times. The fourth time she had obviously taken a turn for the worse very quickly (I see my friends once a week and a lot can happen in a week). There was a thermometer by her bed and she was on oxygen. She was already on comfort meds (morphine). The nurse confirmed my thoughts...she was 'actively dying'. This was my first patient so it caught me off guard. I felt a little silly crying although we all know that's perfectly natural.

I had become fairly close to her daughter during this time and in the last days of her life I visited her every day, mostly to check on her daughter, who had been through much of the same irritating life situations as I have the last couple years. But add to that the fact that she was raising her 3 year old niece and caring for her dying mother. I wished I could whisk her off and give her a vacation. So strong.

My friend died about 4 days after I visited her and found her much declined.

My 2 new friends were a stroke patient and a woman who was basically healthy but just suddenly took a turn. She was 89, lived totally independently and was disease free. Her daughters were somewhat confused by the whole situation because it happened so quickly. The two sisters clearly had a great relationship and responded immediately to my personality, even though their mom, my patient, was fairly unresponsive and on heavy morphine already. We all clicked readily and I felt so great being able to support them with little funny stories and hugs and encouragement that they were doing great by their mom.

The next time I saw my friend, the sisters, her daughters were not there. This was just my 2nd visit. My friend was more alert (possibly less morphine but I couldn't be sure) but was very very agitated. My feeling from my training and my practically non existent experience was that she was very close to the end. I was a little bothered by the lack of answers I received from staff but I talked to my friend, held her hand, stroked her hair, and told her it was going to be OK soon. I didn't know if it would be or not, but I had a strong feeling. She passed away 3 days later. I'm very relieved about her. her condition was distressing....in part because it had no disease based explanation and it happened so very quickly. I haven't been able to talk to her daughters but I wish to contact them.

so I have 1 friend now. She is the sweetest lady ever. She is a stroke patient. She can only say 2 phrases but she smiles fabulously at my stories of my mischievous children, pictures of my new shoes, my friends, cute boys, and other tales of my life. she sits up, is mobile, feeds herself, and cries when I leave. yeah. I know. She can't tell me why she is crying obviously but I think my heart knows. So far, she is the one I have connected with the most and I am anxious to see her again.

Given the fact that my patients so far have passed so quickly, and because of scheduling I can only see them once a week, I am very anxious in between visits as I don't want to miss anything.

I don't really know what to make of the fact that in just a few short weeks so much has happened. I guess I thought I would be with one patient and family for at least a couple or a few months.

Its frustrating only in that I wish I could be there more. I still find it odd that I am able to do this and that yes, I still find it beautiful. I finally was able to figure out why I feel that way I think, other than it feels like the ultimate act of humanity...It makes me feel closer to God. Its like because I know they are nearing Him, I'm closer to His presence.

Which possibly makes me very selfish. :)

But I thank my friends so much for allowing me to be a part of this beautiful journey's end...the sunset part. Not always romantic, but still really profound. I feel really blessed. This is a gift...

1 comment:

  1. Kelly, You have such a beautiful soul, we all know it. I think is a gift from God when you are able to volunteer to be in another's lifewhen they need you most. You find the beauty in everything & it can make you feel more alive than ever. Give when you can, it is so hard to not give time with people you begin to care deeply about. I love you! Keep on being an awesome role model for your little ones. :)