I love our Hospice multi-disciplinary meetings. We go over the patients one by one and hear from the nurse, doctor, social worker and chaplain about how each patient is doing. I love this part because I don’t get a chance to work directly with patients, as my role comes in after the patient has passed and I connect and work with their families. Thus, it’s really neat to hear about the lives of patients from the other side.
The mood vacillates between joy and sorrow and we discuss the ups and downs of patient care and situations. As we discuss patients and each person offers a piece of information from their lens, I am able to glimpse into their lives as well. They are no longer just names on a census, names of which I will reference in difficult conversations with their families. They become real people in the midst of their stories, near the end of their stories, with full lives behind them.
-The story of the woman who was growing more and more tired and weary with each day. She had Alzheimer’s disease and has been confused for the last several months, unable to recognize friends or family. Last Tuesday, she awoke with her son sitting by her bed. She was completely clear-headed. She recognized her son and was overjoyed to see him and be in his presence. They were able to visit and catch up on lost time and say goodbye. She passed away an hour later.
-Or the story of the woman who was barely alive. She was eating next to nothing and sleeping most days. She wanted to see her son get married. She held on like this for a month and a half. She was able to see her son get married on Saturday and passed peacefully away on Sunday morning.
-And the story of the man who went through an invasive surgery a while back and had a vivid end of life experience in the hospital. He talked about a vision of light illuminating a door. He heard voices saying that he needed to make a choice. He could walk through the door or he could stay. He chose to stay-his wife needed him. He loved life and wasn’t ready to go. His body is weak, but he fights to live each day. The social worker was helping him process this and asked him, “what would you choose today if the door were to present itself again?” He said he would walk through the door.
It’s incredible the glimpses of life that I get to see. It’s the human spirit. I’m in awe. People are resilient. I’m learning that over and over every day. People know what they need to do and they make a choice to do it.