Monday, October 26, 2009

Waiting Room

"Robby" came on to hospice Thursday after deciding to stop dialysis; he had started hospice in March but after a couple of days, decided he still wanted dialysis. Fast forward to August where we cared for his wife of 60 plus years for 6 days on hospice. When I saw Robby after that (while visiting another patient where he lives), his heartbreak was beyond visible. His spirit seemed broken. I was not surprised to hear that he had decided to stop dialysis once and for all. I was, however, surprised when he died this morning. The hospice RN went out to pronounce and then asked me to come and sit with the family while we waited for the funeral home to arrive. I have no problem sitting with families in the midst of their grief. The harder issue is assessing which families want to talk, either about their loved one or any other conversation topic, and which families prefer silence. It turned out this family was a combination of both. We sat in the residence living room; Robby's room was down the hall and family would go in occasionally to say their goodbyes. They shared stories about Robby, from his time in the war to his love of food- Robby was always anxious for the next mealtime. They talked about his decision to stop dialysis, one that not everyone agreed with even though he was well in to his 90s. Sometimes they would get lost in their thoughts. And I tried to be sensitive in the midst of it all. They were able to laugh and find some comfort and meaning in Robby's decision. His son, for instance, was sure that Robby held on for him and his children to arrive before he died. I have no doubt that this is true. There is such a somber note in the air after death; it tinges everyone and everything. Although I was not personally affected by this loss, I tend to take in others' grief like a sponge and eventually need to be wrung out. I ended up staying with them for about an hour and a half. When they left, they thanked me for my time with them and made plans for lunch. I think Robby would have appreciated that. I was glad to be there for them but left drained, as it always happens after such a vigil.

On a lighter note, I went to visit a patient in a group home this afternoon. The other residents are quite demented. As I visited my patient, one woman looked directly at me and distinctly said: "I don't love you...but I don't hate you." Later she was railing on about how "I am not a vegetarian!"

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