I have been pestering my classmates from nursing school (we are about to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary next month) to write their stories so I can post them on my blog. Maybe pestering is too mild a word. Regardless, I have succeeded. Two women have sent me stories.
The first comes from Joan Moore.
This is her story when she worked for a Hospice in Central New Jersey in the late 1990’s.
THOUGHTFULNESS IN THE FACE OF GRIEF
Written by Joan Moore
One of the most important aspects of hospice nursing is that a nurse is available 24/7 for the patients. This means every nurse on the team is required to take a turn being “on call”.
I’d like to share one of my many on call experiences.
My weekend started quietly. It was a Saturday in October. Halloween. In that neighborhood when Halloween falls on a weekend, the kids start trick-or-treating in the early afternoon. I received my first call at twelve noon. Molly, a much-loved fifty-year-old with ovarian cancer that I had admitted two months previously, had just died. I offered my condolences and said I would be there in about twenty minutes.
I drove past many happy, costumed children on my way to the house. When I arrived, Molly’s brother-in-law was sitting on the front porch with a big bucket of candy for the neighborhood children. Inside, Molly looked very peaceful surrounded by her sister and three dear friends.
Hugs all around and emotional support. I explained what I needed to do to pronounce, per protocol, since it might seem silly to onlookers as I took a blood pressure and listened to lung and heart sounds on a person who just died. Then I called the doctor to inform her and the funeral director who told me he would probably arrive in an hour.
Since it was Halloween and children all around, the family told me to ask the director if he could please drive the hearse around the back of the house so as not to cause any commotion in the neighborhood. Conversation then revolved around Molly and good stories about her.
As I was about to render post-mortem care—washing and dressing the body—the body-language of the women told me that this was a task they wanted to do. They lovingly bathed Molly and dressed her. One laughingly remarked about Molly’s favorite sweater—it had silver threads running through it. She said, “I wonder what will happen when she’s cremated? Would she be all sparkly?”
The funeral director arrived and drove around the back of the house. Molly’s brother-in-law remained on the front porch giving out candy. It’s always difficult to watch as your loved one is taken out of the house for the last time.
I left, happy that my beeper never went off during this visit. I was available to listen and care. I wondered what the rest of my calls would be like. Turned out I was able to manage with only supportive phone calls and didn’t have to go out on any visits.
An epilogue to this—unbeknownst to me—one of the women was a nurse and a good friend of my supervisor. Monday when I went back to work she pulled me aside and told me that the family appreciated my silently watching over them while they rendered care. There is nothing more wonderful for a nurse to hear that you really helped.
Next week: Ruth Donoghue’s story: NAKED IN THE DELIVERY/LABOR ROOM