Friday, July 8, 2011

The Phone Call...

I am the person that most folks don't want to talk to.  No one really wants to set up the appointment with the "hospice" nurse.  I  usually call the house to set up the time to admit the patient to hospice care.  They generally don't want me to come.  It goes like this..."Hi, Mr. So and So, I'm from Hospice and I was wondering if I could come and see you?" 

I  have thought about what that must be like.  You go to the doctor that you have been associated with to heal you for however many years you been in the battle...but this time he tells you the treatment that you are banking on keeping you around for your wife or kids or life isn't doing the trick...and hey, by the way, there is nothing else we can do.  Go home and someone will call you from Hospice so you can get taken care of while you die.  I make the call...

"Knock...knock".  I stand at the door waiting for someone to answer.  The wife answers the door, nervous and upset.  It's awkward and uncomfortable for them and the fear is palpable.  On my last admit, the patient was sitting in his chair in the living room, "all dolled up " as the wife noted.  He looked like he was in pain...the kind that you can't sit still, shifting in the chair, looking around the room and trying to focus on anything but what is going on and the pain.  I introduced myself and pulled a chair up.  "You look like you hurt...are you on anything?"  Most of the time, folks have some drugs but they are afraid to take them.  I made general conversation about the medication as his wife runs and gets the pill bottle.  I read it quickly and knew the drug..."You can take one or two right now if you like"... to which he says," I only take them at night to sleep"... "Do they help you sleep...to feel less pain?" I ask.  "Yeah"... "then why don't you take one now so you feel better while you are awake" I suggest.  His wife runs to get him a fresh glass of water and he takes one and then decides to take another.

"What's your story"  I ask..."how did I get the pleasure to meet you?"  He begins his medical saga and finishes with..."so they say the chemo isn't working anymore and there is nothing else to do."  We sit with that statement as long as we need to.  Sometimes, the statement is like telling me we are out of milk and I need to pick some up but this time, before I could stop myself, tears sprang to my eyes.  "Well, what do you think of that?" I ask as I pull myself back to being the professional that I am supposed to be.  "I'd like a miracle" he says...to which I smile at him and say nothing.

A little more than an hour has passed as we go over medical history, listen to his heart and lungs and sign the paperwork.  I can already notice he is moving in the chair less, feeling more comfortable.  I thank God silently while we plan what is next from the hospice standpoint.  "We can help you with pain, and if your more comfortable, you can enjoy your family more" I say and move on.  "We'll take care of you" I say "and if you don't want me here...I go.  This is your home and this is your show now...your the boss from now on."  He smiles, looks at his wife and says " Well..I think that's enough for today" and dismisses me.  As he is walking down the hall with his wife and his walker, I hear him say, "I'll see you tommorrow right?"  to which I respond, "I'll call first to let you know what time I am coming"..."You can come anytime you need to...I'll be here" and his voice fades down the hall. 

I give the family my phone numbers and say my goodbyes.  I can see the relief on the face of the wife as she thanks me.  I tell her again that I will see her tommorrow.  I feel honored that I get to help such a nice family at this time in their life.  But I think to myself, this one is not going to be easy.  Actually none of them are.  Life is hard, death is hard but it is part of all of it. 

So heres a warning...when you hear the phone ring and you see my number on caller ID...you don't have to pick up the phone.

We'll tawk tommorrow,
I love you all,


Lo said...

What a remarkable profession you are a part of and what blessings you bring to the people you help.

I am in awe of your empathy and skill and heart.

Love, Lo

Ms. Moon said...

Those people have no idea the blessing which is being announced with your call.

Gail said...

I am so glad that there are earth angels like you to help people make the transition from this life to our real, eternal life.

Life has a 100% mortality rate, none of us gets out of here alive, this is a fact...and yet in this time and place, death is not a part of life, it is a battle to be fought, almost something to be ashamed of, certainly something to be afraid of.

You bless families by removing the stigma, taking away the shame, empowering them to make this transition with dignity rather than it being a defeat. What a gift you give them. And your tears of compassion are a gift to them as well.

Love to you,

Elizabeth said...

Wow. I can imagine just from this telling that you are an angel for these people. I should be so lucky were I to need hospice --