Monday, March 02, 2009

he Hospice Hospital-Where Patients Check In but they Never Check Out

I had just left Older Sister’s hospital room on Thursday, when the rain began to fall. The rain, symbolized change, as it did in all good novels, only this wasn’t a novel. You knew when that happened that things would never be the same. The rain wept from the clouds uncontrollably, almost like a foreshadowing of what was to come. I had spent several hours there on Thursday, knowing I would be unable to return until today, until I had a sitter for Dear Son.

Younger Sister and I had our plan. We’d meet at the hospital Sunday morning, spend time with Older Sister, then go and take care of business at her home and then return. Minutes before I left the hospital, Younger Sister called and said Older Sister was near the end. She spoke with the nurse who confirmed the lungs were filling with fluid and she predicted she would die in the next 24 to 48 hours. I had been reading the hospice brochure I received on Thursday and knew her time was limited. Of course, she stopped eating and drinking on Thursday so I knew that without water, time would be limited. I had forgotten that the rest of the world doesn’t have feeding tubes, like Dear Son, so there weren’t any fluids getting into her body and there wasn’t any way to prolong life. Of course, hospice isn’t about prolonging life, it’s about being “comfortable” which really means they give you enough pain meds so you don’t feel the agonizing death.

The Hospice Hospital is a busy place. The woman in the bed next to Older Sister died on Wednesday, so she was no longer there when I arrived on Thursday. I missed her grown children who had visited often. The place seemed rather quiet without them. Today, during my visit, the staff came by to close our door; it seems another patient expired across the hall and they were removing the body. I doubt I would manage very well in a job like that. It has to be rough to see all of your patients die, and that is what happens.

Older Sister was gasping for breath when I arrived. I glanced down at the urine bag, and noticed the lack thereof. Decreased urine was on of the many signs indicating the patient had just days or hours. “Fish out of water breathing” was the other one I remembered, which meant just minutes. I was somewhat worried she might die when I was there. On the one hand, I didn’t want her to die alone and on the other hand, well, I was afraid. I knew this was the end, I could feel death hanging over us like a heavy cloud. It was excruciating listening to her gasp for her breath. I was very uncomfortable wondering how long I could listen to this and feeling selfish for feeling that way when she could hardly breathe. Younger Sister and I talked to her, and she opened her eyes briefly. She tried hard to communicate with us and tried hard to open her eyes. They’d open briefly and I was amazed at her will under the circumstances. The breathing was rapid and rough. It was so different with adults. With Dear Son, I know his breathing like the back of my hand. I know he’s in trouble when the breathing is rapid, like one a second. I know when he’s working too hard and when he’s taking too long in between breaths. That happens some nights when he has more seizures. He’ll go a long time in between breaths, like 15 seconds or so. I’ll jump up and raise the bed up, as if to help him. Anything to make things easier. But with Sister, it’s harder. I don’t know what to expect or what is normal. We stayed for a while and then we left, to take care of some business at her home.

As I was driving home, I called the hospital to see how Sister was doing. I had planned on dropping some things off and returning after that. I asked for her nurse. After some fumbling around, they told me she wasn’t available, instead, she was in Sister’s room. I asked them to transfer the call and the call was dropped. When I called back, it was too late. Sister was dead. Younger Sister returned to the hospital at 2:32 p.m. and Older Sister died in her arms at 2:40 p.m., the exact time of my call. The nurse said she was waiting for Sister to return. I hung up the phone and continued driving down the interstate, the snow blowing hard against my windshield. Suddenly, it seemed a lot colder and my body went numb. I am going to miss you Big Sister. You were loved a lot.

17 comments:

Poppy Q said...

Dear Dream Mom, I am sorry to hear about your big sister. Don't feel guilty about your conflicting emotions, facing death is scary. When my mum died, I was able to be with her and hold her hand and tell her that it was ok for her to go. But a big part of me wanted to run away, to get away from it all.

It was good that you were able to visit with her before she passed, and that your younger sister was able to be with her at the end.

You and your family are in our thoughts.

Hugs
Julie and Poppy Q

Claire said...

My condolences.

Lois Grebowski said...

Big hugs...Thoughts... and prayers. I am so glad that you were able to be there earlier that day to be with her.

I'm so sorry for your loss. I completely understand the conflicting emotions. Been there. Mom's death completely caught me totally off guard, yet Dad's was expected. For both I was not present at time of death.

Know that all of us blog friends are with you during this difficult time. We're right beside you holding your hand...can you feel it?

We're right here whenever you need us.

Corinn said...

-hugs- I'm sorry.

Lori said...

So sorry.

Jan's Funny Farm said...

You are such a beautiful writer. You convey so much with your words.

I am sorry about the loss of your sister. I know this is a very hard time for you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Leigh said...

I am so glad that you left a comment on my blog....because it lead me to you. What an amazing person, mother, caregiver, person that you are. But also an amazing writer. You have so much to offer, I would hope that you would try and do something professionally with it. You have a gift of word.
What an inspiration you are!!
Thanks again for commenting, I love new friends. You are welcome over at my place anytime!

You're in my prayers.

jeanie said...

My condolences, Dream Mom. Just because you know it is going to happen and you expect it to happen doesn't make it any easier.

Rambling Round said...

My sympathies, Dream Mom. You have had much to deal with, and you will carry on. So glad that hospice care was available and able to let you know what to expect. Hugs to you.

Dream Mom said...

Thank you all for such lovely messages and condolences.

Leigh, thank you for thecompliments on my writing. I enjoyed your blog as well. It is one of many in my "feeds" list.

Terri said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your big sister. My heart goes out to you and to your family.

Midlife Midwife said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you Dream Mom. Having done the hospice thing three times myself, my heart feels for you. May you feel peace and comfort is my prayer.

Midlife Midwife said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you Dream Mom. Having done the hospice thing three times myself, my heart feels for you. May you feel peace and comfort is my prayer.

Kathy's Red Door Welcome said...

Dearest Dream Mom, My only sister, who was two years older than I passed away at the tender age of twenty-eight. I was completely unprepared. I remember not being able to cry for quite some time. It was such a shock to my system. My heart goes out to you.My responses were so different than I would have ever imagined. Be good to yourself is my only piece of advise. I'm sure that's what your big sis would want.

red fish said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

I'm sooo sorry for your recent loss of your sister. I visited off and on with my brother when he was in hospice...my last visit being just 2 days before he passed. There's nothing that really prepares you for what you face and you can only feel and do what you do. I'm gradually learning to NOT second guess my actions or feelings, because you do the best that you can at the time and that's all anyone can do. I admire your strength and your son is blessed to have you as his Mom! Susan

Jaime said...

I'm so terribly sorry.

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