November is National Hospice month
With all the wedding plans successfully fulfilled and the honeymoon couple happily back in Colorado, it seems that life really does go on. We all go back to work and carry on our normal routines. I understand that most people don't consider my kind of work routine. As a Hospice nurse I attempt to embrace my work with a balance of compassion and healthy separation, yet on a daily basis these emotions are often not equally balanced. Understanding that ebb and flow is really the key.
Yesterday was one of those early November gifts in New England. It was a sunny, warm Sunday. The kind of day in late fall that gently introduces winter. We did some yard work, walked to the beach and came home to watch football by a crackling fire. I was on-call from 2pm to 8pm and expected it to be a quiet evening. Shortly after 2pm my first call came in. It was an elderly husband concerned that his wife was having trouble breathing. I knew I could not triage that call over the phone so off I went. Upon arrival, it was evident that the patient was in congestive heart failure and if she lasted the night it would be a difficult one. As I was explaining the medication schedule to the family, the patient, a devoted mother of three grown children and adored wife of 63 years, died. I always get a feeling that the patient knows... has a sense it was going to be a long night for her family.
Her husband cried and called her baby. He kept asking if I was sure she was gone. Imagine spending 63 years married to one woman? Imagine still loving her and now losing her? What does it feel like to know you will be alone now, without her ? That balance of compassion and healthy separation hits hard. I definitely can't help the tears. I'm handed some tissues, but there is a lot to do.
I have to call the funeral home, destroy the medications, fill out a pronouncement, notify the doctor. I have to have the exact time of death, correct date, and cause of death all accurate. Have to call the medical supply company, the home health aide department and put a voice mail on the report line. Have to chart a note in the computer. Have to make sure the family is supported and coping before I leave. So much to do.
It will be time to make dinner when I get home. It's OK. It really is. My kind of work does not need to be brought home in full each day. I simply appreciate the intimate privilege I have been given. The spiritual gift of knowing that I helped someone pass from this world to another. A grateful reminder that my family and loved ones are healthy and happy. The comfort and satisfaction of knowing that tomorrow will be another day of good work.