Monday, June 29, 2009

A Series of Fortunate Events

The last few times at hospice IDT (Inter-Disciplinary Team) meeting, which is a weekly review of our hospice patients by all members of the team, a number of interesting comments were made.

One nurse, who usually puts her cell phone on vibrate during patient time, forgot. During her visit, she got a call, and the ring tone struck a cord in our patient, who stood up from her wheelchair and did her version of the "happy dance".

Another patient was having issues with pain management, but absolutely would not consider skipping a planned camping trip with her kids. She is a young mom, and says that it is more important to her to create memories for the family than for her own comfort. Self sacrifice is the value, and the trip her goal. How much more can any of us ask?

A third patient had been unresponsive for the better part of 4 days. As the final family member arrived at the bedside from out of town, the patient opened his eyes, and though saying nothing with his voice, looked at all his children one by one, and then closed his eyes, and took his final breath.

Yet another patient was on his second marriage. His new wife had a dog who did NOT like this man. Yet, as the patient approached the end, the dog started hanging around the patient's room, and on his last day on earth, the dog actually jumped in to bed and slept with the man until he died. (Reminds me of Oscar, the hospice cat from Rhode Island).

There were two other "fortunate events" this past week, but they did not happen at IDT.

There was a physician in my community who has recently developed an interest in end of life issues (after many years in practice). I had spoken to him several times to help him along his learning, and this past week, I had the privilege of visiting his wife and him to assist with her hospice care for terminal pancreatic cancer. He shared that he was not sure if his interest was God's way of preparing him for his wife's illness, or for his career options after she has died. I told him it was surely both.

The last story is about another "God moment". I do a fair amount of home visits for hospice patients, and occasionally have a few spare moments between to catch an errand. I almost always stop off at the local dry cleaners on Mondays after I am done, but one recent day, I had a few minutes and went there in the early afternoon. There was only one other car there, and a lady inside. I was waiting for my things when the door opens and in walks a doc I have known for a fairly large number of years, but hadn't seen for several. He introduced me to his wife, and somewhat sheepishly told me that he and she had recently come back to the area from out of town, and she had been working in hospice where they had been. As they drove, they were discussing that perhaps he would try to catch up with me to see if there were opportunities. They decided to stop at this particular dry cleaners because they had been elsewhere but didn't care for the service. So there they were and I walk in. My fellow doc still is amazed by the "coincidence", but I am not surprised in the least. I am in awe, but not surprised.

Final thought for today: a husband of a dying patient described his role as "goalkeeper/genie". He said he will keep out all attempts to disturb his wife when she needs to be quiet, but he is the genie in the bottle with unlimited wishes he will try to grant her while he can.

I'd love to spend the next few hours writing about what I think this all means, but honestly, I don't think I could begin to do it justice. So I will let the stories speak for themselves.

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