Friday, May 20, 2016

The hardest one yet.

I lost someone very, very special to me last week.
It. Rocked. My. World.

A patient that was so precious.

A patient that was a friend.
A patient that was a mentor.
One that I sat with, talked with, laughed with, worried with.
One that I called, who called me, we shared pictures of our families.
We shared stories of our children and stories of our youth.
She told me how amazing each and every one of us that I worked with were with her..
Especially that nurse practitioner who was so sweet and "easy on the eyes" ;)

She was a nurse.
She understood the lingo.
She knew the medical terms.

She had cancer and I was her hospice nurse.

We took her vital signs weekly.
Ordered meds every two weeks.
Weighed every other week or so.
Talked about her diet, her appetite, her breathing,
her pain, activities, and needs.
And we ordered oxygen when it was time.

I worried about her.
She knew things were happening internally she couldn't quite put her finger on, and she worried about herself.
Because without a CT scan, there's no diagnosing the concern.
So we treat the symptoms.
We are palliative.
Palliative care = Comfort care = symptom management.
That's hospice.

Sometimes we have warning signs.
and there is active decline.
Sometimes we have more time.
We can never tell exactly when something will happen,
but I've gotten a pretty good understanding of the whole process.
Looking at the signs and reading between the lines...

Then, there are those that don't "fit into the mold" of the dying process.
And she was one.

I went every day that week to see her, though I would have never marked her status as "imminent".
She called me her security blanket and wanted me to be there when she was feeling bad.
She would never refuse a visit from me and I would always go, regardless.
She clung to me and I hugged her tight.
She cried with me and I rubbed her forehead, and arm, and back.
I laid next to her in her bed while she said, I'm just going to close my eyes and rest for a while.

I never imagined her neighbor would call me the next morning at 7 AM as I'm getting out of the shower to tell me she had passed away.

Crushed me.

I ran out the door with wet hair, without my medical bag, in a state of fog because I didn't have the slightest idea that was going to happen.
I was in shock.
I was calling everyone I worked with because I just couldn't believe it.

I listened to the Beatles the whole way there, because she was such a fan.
It really hit me when Hey Jude started playing.
Ugh, it was hard.

I got there and there was already a community of friends and neighbors who had spent the whole night with her and did not want to leave her side.
She was in her bed, lying on her back.
Peaceful as could be.
I listened to her chest with my raspberry colored Littmann stethoscope.

She was gone.

I kissed her forehead and closed her eyes.
I changed her clothes, her sheets, made all the calls I needed to make...
And I waited with everyone else.

It's been a week.
and a pretty rough week at that.

But, I am right where I need to be.

I am a hospice nurse.

This is what I do.
And some people come into your life and touch it in a way that you will never forget.
She was one of them.
She was just that kind of person.
SO MANY lives she affected.

Still, I think of her.
Thursdays were our days - 10am was our time.
I can still see her in her apartment, sitting on her couch, laughing and telling me about the things her and her friends got into that weekend.
Like she was still here.

But there won't be any more Thursday mornings with her.
and that's sad, but to be completely honest with you,
it all happened the way she would have wanted it to.
And I can remember her in the best ways!

But she really has been the hardest one yet.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do you see what I see?

How is it that Christmas this year crept up so fast??!!
I mean, it's next week.
Hailee told me this morning as I was waking her up (in her sleepy little voice), "Mom, Christmas is in 8 days".
Yes, yes it is.
And I vow right now to start preparing for next Christmas this coming summer.
Because ain't NOBODY got time for this mad rush here at the end of the season.

So, I've  been working as a hospice nurse for a little over a year now.
And multiple times throughout the year, I've said, "I can't even."

But I can.

It's hard.

but Oh, so rewarding.
I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing at this point in my life.

I've learned so much about dying, death, faith, family...
Kinda morbid, but such a HUGE part of life, nonetheless.
It all comes full circle as it winds down to the last days someone spends on this earth.
And though not all the time, but sometimes, patients see people that we can't see at or near the very end.
And I can't see what they see, but I know they can.
And it gives me chills EVERY TIME someone tells me they see someone or talk to someone that's not there. That will never get old to me.
And it gives them peace - that they're not doing this whole "death" thing alone.
Because from what I've seen, some people hold on to life so tightly because they're scared of what comes next.
"When will it happen?"
"How much time is left?"
"Will it hurt?"
"Because I don't want it to hurt."

I can't answer these questions.
No one can.

And some people hold on because of worry.
"What will happen to my loved ones? I've always been the one to take care of them."
And there's terminal agitation, restlessness, and other signs that may indicate the end of life is near.

We look for signs.
We listen to symptoms.
We comfort the hurts.
We (try to) manage the pain.
Death has it's own game plan and it's different for everyone.
It's not conventional.
It's personal, it's unique.
It's not always how we imagine it will be but it's a part of everyone's story.
and it's final for our time on this earth.

Working in hospice really puts so much in perspective.
It's definitely not a 9-5 job.
Because people.
This is where my heart is.

and if they tell you they see someone that you can't, it's OK.

Monday, October 5, 2015

it's not over yet.

Saturday - October 3, 2015..
Happy Birthday to MEEE!!!
The big 34!
SINCE we knew there was going to be some weather stuff going on with Hurricane Joaquin and some special front/pressure system that was supposed to mix things up for our area, Roger and I went out Friday night so we could be good and hunkered down Saturday and Sunday.
Mom and dad kept Hailee.
She had a ball, of course..
So did we.

Clearly, from the look on Roger's face.


Sunday - October 4, 2015
No one was prepared for this.

All of the weather meteorologists had a feeling something catastrophic was going to go down with all the indications and weather patterns (I love me some doppler radar, but I'm no meteorologist...).
It rained.
and it rained.
and rained.
(And its been slightly raining all day today too. We've had dry times but it hasn't completely stopped yet)
it was 6:30 am Sunday morning and I couldn't sleep just thinking about everything.

So I turned on the TV.

Joaquin was heading back  out to sea but Charleston was flooding from all the rain coming in from the 2 weather systems wedged in place.
It was like a faucet had opened up and it was pouring water into the midlands.
Like several inches per hour.

We had no idea what to expect.
The news coverage was 24 hours straight.
Dams were breaking.
Rivers were breaching their banks.
Homes were flooding.
People were trapped in cars.
People needed to be rescued from cars and homes.
Bridges and roads were crumbling.

Hailee didn't understand why we needed to watch the news constantly and not pay her any attention.
She doesn't get it.
She's 6.
I wonder how much of this she will actually remember.
Because she knew we were safe.
We were okay.
Even though so many others are not..

You have probably seen the pictures.
I stayed in my home.
Where it was dry, warm, safe.

People were losing electricity.
Water lines were bursting.
The water outside wasn't safe.
The water inside wasn't safe.
People were still trying to drive around amidst the horrific flooding.

County wide curfews were issued.
First Responders worked tirelessly day and night, trying to rescue and make sure everyone was safe.
911 calls were completely backed up.
People that worked in the hospitals had to stay there, not leaving, sleeping and keep on working.
(I was there last year during the huge winter storm, I know..)

The Governor closed all Schools and government offices Monday.
We were in a state of emergency.
Full fledged emergency.
Emergencies that disaster personnel prepare for.
Drill for and train for.
Everyone was urged to stay indoors.
Huge interstates have been shut down.
Back roads have been completely broken up.
Our ground and soil was not ready for this.

A thousand year event.
Devastating rainfall.

Just watching the news was heartbreaking.
Not even 10 miles away, people were losing everything they had.
We never so much as had a big puddle on our street through this whole thing.
And peoples homes are destroyed.
Not even 25 miles away stores and businesses and streets were under water.
Buildings were crumbling.

And it's not over yet.
All the rivers haven't even crested yet.
Just a few hours ago, there was another mandatory evacuation like 25 miles from where we live.
Another dam had been breached.
More lives were in danger.

So far, I think I read there have been 5 weather related casualties.
And it's not over yet.

People are going to have to start going back to work.
Cleaning up.
Reorganizing chaos.

Hailee's school is out again Tuesday (tomorrow).
Some of the schools are serving as temporary shelters for those displaced.
I don't know how many have officially been put out of their homes, but any number is a bad number.

I cannot even imagine.
Losing everything.

We still have a warm, dry home.
Groceries in the fridge that I can make meals.
Beds, bathrooms, running water, electricity...
A car that wasn't damaged from flood water..
Clean water.

But that can change instantaneously.
And it's not over yet.

Praying for all that have lost and for all we have yet to face.
Roger and I are going to try to work tomorrow.
I have patients to see whom I've been worrying about all weekend long.
Patients who I cannot even get to because all of the bridges leading into Columbia have been shut down.
Hopefully they will be open soon.
And I'll see my Lexington peeps tomorrow if the roads are clear.
Grandparents are on the stand-by in case Roger has to go rush out to plumbing problems (which I'm sure there will be many).

So, so thankful for all we have during this sad time.

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