Hospice staff members receive as well as give

Published 8:44 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just as Hospice of the Carolina Foothills (HoCF) staff and volunteers serve patients, the patients serve them by sharing their wisdom and hard-won life lessons.

Recently, Lydia Miller, one of the HoCF&bsp; nurses aides, learned what she has come to believe is the true meaning of life from Hospice patient Connor Patton.

Following is Lydias firsthand&bsp; account of their time together.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When Connor Patton (Mrs. P) was admitted to HoCF in February, 2007, it was not her first time as a Hospice patient. After numerous strokes, her health had begun to fail, and her physician had come to the conclusion that, should her disease continue its natural course, Mrs. Ps prognosis was likely six months or less. But she defied the odds three times.

By the time she entered White Oak Manor, her health had improved enough that she graduated from Hospice. When Mrs. P was admitted to hospice again, our nurse scheduled me to visit and assist her with personal needs twice a week. Because her husband had requested I drop in and meet him before I began Mrs. Ps care, I stopped at his room just a few corridors away. Mr. P told me he had wanted to meet me so that he could provide a synopsis of his wifes medical history, tell me a little about her personality and learn a bit about me. After a short visit, we walked to Mrs. Ps room where I was introduced.

I found Mrs. P to be an inviting woman. Strokes had rendered her bed-bound, but I suspected that her pleasant personality and kind demeanor were a life-long quality. Our first meeting proved that she was an expert in the art of conversation, and that she naturally brought out the best in others.

As I helped her with bed baths, she would tell me stories of her life, ranging from when she was just a few years old to recent conversations with her children. While she was occasionally confused about the present, she always engaged me in pleasant conversations.

I was scheduled to spend an hour and a half with Mrs. P twice a week, which allowed time for shampoos in bed, and I was able to blow-dry and curl her hair weekly. We formed a routine, and her bath was customized to her. She didnt have to remind me that her back was not to be washed with soap or that her nail bed was particularly tender. Between our visits, she received compliments on her hair and nails, so she began to make requests such as curling her hair the same way, and using the same nail color.

Mr. and Mrs. P were both retired professors and loved the English language, so while we worked, we introduced new words to each other and challenged each other mentally when we found a worthy word. We also shared a lot of laughs, as did the entire HoCF team who together provided specialized physical, social and spiritual care.

During late 2007, Mrs. P had a crisis with leg pain, and our nurses worked for weeks every day with White Oaks nurses, her physician, our Medical Director and Mr. P to identify the origin of the pain and administer the medicine that would work best without compromising her quality of life.

Once the crisis had passed, Mrs. P regained her familiar demeanor and her pain occurred less frequently. As 2007 neared its end, her symptoms were so well-managed that her health stabilized and her attending physician and our Medical Director agreed that she was no longer eligible for hospice. Yet in July, 2008, she was readmitted to hospice for the third time. She had declined, but we picked up our routine where we had left off.

There were times when I would be giving Mrs. P a bath and she would lay in silence with her eyes close, but I could sense the wheels turning in her mind. She may have been remembering the time when she first flew in a plane and her mother held tightly to her sash to prevent her from plummeting to the ground. She might have been fondly recalling the devoted care her eldest daughter had given to her younger siblings. Or she could have been pondering the latest news on the upcoming Presidential election. &bsp;

I wondered what Hospice memories Mrs. P had judged notable enough to retain in her memory. When I asked, she readily agreed that I could write this story about my experiences with her. She explained that Hospice had become like family to her and that she wanted to show her appreciation by participating in the story.

Though Mrs. P and I discussed many things, we never spoke about the inevitable. Then one day, when I could tell she had been contemplating something important, Mrs. P made a simple statement about her death. In an uncomplicated and peaceful manner, she told me that when her time came, she did not want us to be sad for her, for she had lived a wonderful life.

She said it with such assurance and joy that I realized that this was what life was about: the moments you have taken time to savor, the amount of joy you welcomed and the memories captured from it all. In the end, it may well be the small, every day acts that mean the most, and every day should be embraced for its countless blessings.

When Mrs. P passed away in November of this year, her family was at her side. I am so glad we were able to give her care and comfort at the end of her life and that we received the gift of knowing her.