In my job as a Hospice RN Case Manager I could honestly say that each patient I have looked after has changed my life in many different ways.
Thinking about all these dear folk that I have had the pleasure of looking after I am drawn back to one of my dear patients that died only a few months ago.
My first meeting with this lady was very strained.
She was a very private woman who did not open up at all other than monosyllable answers, Yes or No to offer a response to my questioning was all she was giving up of herself.
During my assessment she would sit very quietly not moving very much and certainly speaking anything was obviously too much for her. Extremely dyspneic was an understatement but there the oxygen sat not being used.
Over a period of time 'Fay' slowly started to open up more and more with me although her extreme dyspnea made speaking a very slow, arduous and tiring effort for her.
She was battling lung cancer and was given a 6 month or less diagnosis. Her husband died of the same disease only 1 year ago from her prognosis and part of her oxygen issue stems from a horrible experience her husband went through.
The more I saw 'Fay' the more she got used to me. She would tell me things of her past. She was a school teacher and taught many languages. Herself being fluent in 4 of them.
Traveled the world and was stationed in Germany with her husband.
Well educated, loved the news and worldly goings on. I learnt a lot about American history and politics from her.
She opened up her heart to me. What a fiercely independent woman who was doing her decline 'her way'.
'Fay' taught me it is ok to have a sense of humor when you are dying. Her face would break out into a grin when I would say something so obvious to her that she would hold her sides and start shaking with laughter.
She had so much pain but would not give into the medications 1/4th of a break through pain med is all she would take at a time.
Her dog was her world and she worried about who would take care of Jolie when she was gone.
My visits became her reason for going on as she would say. I would greet her with a hug then have to play with fetch with Jolie which would make 'Fay' grin from ear to ear.
As her health, strength, endurance, loss of weight and increased pain all pointed towards her final stage of lung cancer she kept on smiling and still refusing to use oxygen.
I always gave her options and ideas of what would most likely help her but 'Fay' still made the decisions in her own time. Quite often if her daughter said something 'Fay' would look at me and do that crazy signal around her ear with a finger then grin.
Less than one week before 'Fay' died I suggested it was time for a hospital bed. She nodded as speaking now was so difficult for her to do. She relented and started wearing her oxygen 'only because her daughter made her'. She grinned and rolled her eyes when she whispered this.
Visiting several days before she became unconscious, 'Fay' asked me to sit on her bed with her.
There I sat while she said what she needed to say. In a very clear and strong voice she uttered 'Sabby you are a beautiful person and I want you to be with me while I am dying and pronounce me. I also want you to be with my family to support them when I am gone'
She held my hand when I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her during this, anything that would make it more comfortable for her I would try my best to do.
She nodded no and smiled a sweet gentle smile that I will never forget.
During her active dying phase I visited daily, phoned every night before going to bed.
This was going to take some fine tuning so I could be there when it was time.
Her daughter worked volunteer for the Rescue Squad so we decided on a BP that was the hint for her to phone me and get me on my way up the mountain.
We had it worked out well with 'Fay' at the center of our attention and the whole reason we had this so well coordinated.
I was able to drive up to be with her, care for her, give her pain medications, mouth care, sponge her down and pack her in ice when the temperature went over 106.9 AX and offer much needed support to her family.
'Fay' took 3 hours to die but she did this with such Grace.
Quietly she slipped away from us but with a lasting impression on my heart.
She taught me it is ok to have a sense of humor, laugh at yourself and others.
She found a happy contented place to deal with her illness.
I was honored to be the one 'Fay' asked to be with her and her family. This very proud and private lady opened up her home and her heart to me.
I am forever indebted to her for what she taught and shared with me.