Friday, January 19, 2007

Beginning Hospice...

I do not know where to begin. My emotions are all over the place. So this may be a very disjointed post. Please bear with me.

Maybe I'll begin on Wednesday of this week. Nana has been struggling, actually, ever since my sister arrived Wednesday night. I had taken Nana in for her scheduled doctor's appointment which went fairly well, all things considered. By that I mean she was still experiencing her cough from the bronchitis and was still having some sleep issues. But sometime Wednesday night something "changed."

Marsha and I attributed a lot of the pressure in her chest from the bronchitis but the mental condition made us wonder about a small stroke. Things continued about the same until the next week when another shift "downward" occurs. We call the doctor and talk with him over the phone. His assessment was medication was most likely causing some of the mental issues Nana seemed to be experiencing. One thing which was very noticable was how much Mom was sleeping in her chair and then having periods of time when she was "on," like giving speeches.

Marsha left Tuesday morning and I waited out the 48 hours to see if stopping one med made any difference. If nothing else, Mom was worse. I called the doctor Wednesday morning and they worked her in. The doctor listened and observed her, and listened to her heart and lungs. He looked up and told me that things have changed with her heart. Now, Nana has had a lot wrong with her heart, for many years, but she has managed to just keep on going. She has pulmonary hypertension, four leaky heart valves, regular hypertension, and an irregular heartbeat, etc. Well, her heart is beating so fast the blood isn't able to get to the heart which explains why she is sleeping so much. He looked at me and said with these changes it was truly the beginning of the end. Well, that's how I really had looked at this whole thing ever since her fall in August. I left the doctor's office feeling okay with things. I wasn't overly concerned, at least not any more so than other visits. I dropped off her new Rx to be filled which would help in the discomfort she was feeling with her heart.

When I went to pick up the med I asked the pharmacist if I could give her a dose right then, and then another in the morning with her regular pills. She is supposed to take it once a day. He told me no that I should just wait till morning. I'm okay with that. We head on over to the restaurant to eat an early dinner. Nana LOVES to go out to eat. And the only time we go out anymore is when she is out for an appointment. It's just too much otherwise.

Well, no sooner were we seated in the restaurant I noticed she was shivering. Now, our high temps during the days have been registering around 20 to 22F. But she was not sitting in a cold place and she was shaking all over. Her breathing became even more labored and she had difficulty swallowing. I asked her how she was feeling. She shared how awful she felt, how much she hurt and how cold she was. We got a box to take her food home with us.

After arriving home the caregiver gets her ready for bed and I come in and take her temp. She has a fever between 100º and 101º. We get her into bed, turn on her warming pad and pile blankets on top of her. This is only after 2 hours after seeing the doctor! She was NOT running a fever while in his office. She becomes more agitated because her breathing becomes extremely difficult.

But she keeps saying she has something to say. When I heard that I begin thinking back to my birthday on Friday when she "stood at the podium" and kept telling all of us that she "had something to say", which at that time, did not make much sense to us. But through her struggling breath she finally began sharing how much she has enjoyed living here with Jim and I. How much she loves me (us) etc. She tells me she wants to get through her "good-bye" before her breath runs out. I begin to grasp (after she spelled it out so very clearly DUH!) that she is telling us goodbye.

She is not afraid to die. Not at all. She is ready. At one point when we were praying with her, she reached out her hand and said, "Come Jesus, take my hand, I'm ready...please, take my hand, Jesus." My dearest friend came over and Jim, C and I sang hymns to her and talked with her and sang more of her favorite hymns. When her breathing got so bad, and the pain had increased so greatly, I remembered the new pill and went running to get it. I brought it back and gave it to her, thinking to myself, "I'll just talk to the doctor in the morning and he will tell me when to give it to her next." After awhile she began to breathe a little easier.

She has talked a lot about the group of people/men who have been in her room. I asked her if they were singing to her thinking that she was confused and maybe was thinking of the carolers who had come into her room Christmas eve. "Oh no," she replied. I thought about it for a few minutes and then I said, "Mom, maybe they are part of the "great cloud of witnesses which Hebrews talks about." She looked surprised and then smiled and said, "Oh, maybe so!" As she continued to talk about them off and on throughout the evening I also suggested that they were angels making preparations for her.

It goes without saying that I cried copious tears throughout the evening as she continually hugged and kissed me, telling me how much she loved me. As I fell into bed about 3 a.m. I thought I could not go through such an emotional thing each and every night. My prayers were for myself at first. Slowly as I relaxed, I felt peace and contentment encase my every fiber. I woke up several times but each time I felt comforted and was able to go back to sleep. My mom, however, didn't sleep at all until about 5 a.m. at which time she slept for about 45 minutes.

Thursday continued to be a difficult day for her with pain and discomfort. When I talked to the doctor Thursday morning he told me the fever went along with her blood count which was elevated. He then told me he thought she was ready for hospice.

Today was the day to meet the hospice people. They were so very nice. Very caring and concerned people. I moved through my day with them with joy. I know it was/is the Lord equiping me in each situation. The hospice people couldn't get over how well cared for Mom is and my tenderness with her. After dinner and before we left for Bible study I sat down and explained to Mom that hospice had been called in. She asked questions, mainly about the "symptoms" she is experiencing and why she is. I explained what was going on in her body and how her heart was affecting different things. I also shared that just because hospice has been called in that doesn't mean that she is going to die within the hour, or in the next day or two. It may not happen for several weeks, even several months, reiterating how it is the Lord who determined our days way before we were ever born. I told her that hospice, the care givers and Jim and I were here to make her as comfortable as possible in the time she has left. I even shared about the gal who will bring her harp every week and play for her!! Isn't that the coolest?

When I got through I turned to go into the kitchen and the gal, Nichole, who was the caregiver, had tears running down her face. She said to me, "This probably isn't the correct thing to do, but would you mind if I hugged you? I cannot believe how well you stated everything to your mother and without crying!"

Now, I'm back from about a two hour break because I needed to sit with mom. Another difficult time. Again, tonight, we have a new care giver who kept telling me what a blessing I am to my mother. She kept saying some other things but I couldn't understand all she said. She is from Portugal.

I love to see how the Lord is working throughout my mom's illness. Since she is close to dying, it has allowed my sister and her husband to have spiritual conversations with a foreign friend, and with the care giver tonight I mentioned my brother who had Downs. Come to find out, her youngest child, a little girl named Patricia, who is four years old, is also a Downs. He continually connects us to other people who have a need for Him. I love how personally He deals with each individual's situation, tailoring the fit perfectly.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledg of God! How unsearchable are His dudgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." ~ Romans 11:33-36.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not desparing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

"I have been reflecting on the inestimable value of "broken things." Broken pitchers gave ample light for victory (Judges 7:19-21); broken bread was more than enough for all the hungry (Matthew 14:19-21); a broken box gave fragrance to all the world (Mark 14:3, 9); and a broken body is salvation to all who believe and receive the Savior (Isaiah 53:5-6, 12; 1 Corinthians 11:24). And what cannot the Broken One do with our broken plans, projects, and hearts? ~ V. Raymond Edman


HeyJules said...

I'm so glad you had the time to update us. I've been thinking about Nana all week, worried about how you all were making out.

This is one of those rare times when I hate being a blogger. I hate that I can't run next door and bring you some dinner and give you a big bear hug. I will leave it to God to care for you in place of all of us who love you but who live so far away.

You continue to be in my prayers, Claire, and I'm so happy you had the chance to have this time with your mom. What a healing thing that must be.

All my love,

Jackie said...

Claire, I feel the same way that Jules does about not being able to run over a warm meal, or a cup of tea. But please know that you are in my thoughts.

This post brings both sad and happy tears to my eyes. I remember when my husbands "nanny" passed, it was a situation with striking simalarties to yours, and I have to say that we were all so very greatful for the time we had when we were all able to say our good-byes, that truely is a blessing. Also, I know how much nanny appreciated us being honest with her, and I have no doubt that your mom feels the same way.

Hold strong Claire, and when you can't hold on any longer, hold onto the Lord, He is there with open arms for your entire family.

~Jennifer said...

ditto what Jules and Jackie said. The harp is so cool, and I wish I could come over with a meal and my guitar.

You've also made me think (somehow I seem to make everything about me. Hmmm) of how important it is for me to get myself back in shape and feeling strong so that I can be there for my parents (or whoever may need me) in such a way as you. You're an inspiration.

~Jennifer said...

Oh dear. Now it's there twice. (Could you just delete my extra comments? sorry.)

Dave. said...

I cannot order my thoughts into anything that would even come close to being appropriate to you at this time. I know that God is using you all in this situation and I give thanks that you are willing and able to witness to His Glory.

tonia said...


I am so blessed by your testimony...what God is doing in the midst of you grief and all the changes to come...

well done, good and faithful woman of God.

I am praying for you all.

Rita said...

May God give you all the comfort, peace, and joy (yes, joy, too) that you so need and deserve during this time. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Jesus has Nana's crown waiting.

Terry said...

Dear Claire... I am praying for Nana and her precious family. It is so hard for you, I know your hearts are breaking. Standing by her is all you can do and pray and I am sure that the Lord is with her in this valley but it is so hard for YOU...Will be praying for you all...Love Terry

G~ said...

(((((((((((((claire, nana, et al))))))))))))

nothing more to add here that didn't go into my email.

keeping you in prayer.

eija said...

This is so sad and so not sad - all at the same time. I'm glad you find comfort in that straining situation - The Lord is good!
Be blessed - even more than until now!

Heather said...