When Linda and Paul Donovan first called Hospice of Santa Cruz County, they didn’t know what to expect. Linda shares their precious journey.
The Angel at the Door
“There’s nothing more we can do for you,” the oncologist told my husband, Paul, who had just been dismissed from the hospital following a severe bout of jaundice that led to liver failure. “I think it’s time to bring in hospice.”
When I heard the word “hospice,” I thought that Paul would be gone within days. I couldn’t fight back my tears as I envisioned taking him to a rest home to die. Images immediately came to mind of a nurse injecting him with drugs every few hours in a dimly lit room sparsely decorated with a cot, candle, second-hand table and a well-worn bible.
Fortunately, hospice was far removed from this foreboding image. In fact, it wasn’t even a place. Instead, it turned out to be a holistic approach for taking care us -- our spiritual, physical, mental, financial and other needs as we prepared for Paul’s final voyage. In Paul’s case, he lived a little over 3 months after hospice was called in. Thanks to hospice, he was able to enjoy precious moments with our family and friends.
The angel enters
In February, Mary, the social worker, was the first of many “angels,” who guided us, held our hands, and provided much-needed comfort. Her serene eyes, warm smile, and soft voice helped ease our fears. She explained that Paul would no longer need to make the long trips to the hospital. Instead, a nurse, who was in frequent contact with his doctor, would come to our house and check on him. She said that all medications would be delivered to the house. Oxygen, a wheelchair, and other equipment would arrive immediately upon request. No fuss. No muss.
It takes a team
When Paul first became ill, he was still trying to sort out his relationship with God. Gradually – through discussions with Cathie, the chaplain; a priest; and others – he gained the insight he needed and was at peace. I found her advice reassuring as I asked questions, such as, “What will happen to him? What could he do to prepare for what’s next?”
The medical care at home was a great advantage. Cynthia, the nurse, monitored his medications. Her positive approach helped motivate Paul to take advantage of the times he felt well enough to take walks and visit with people.
We were fortunate that he had a miraculous respite and was able to enjoy limited activities. Although this reprieve was brief, it gave us time together we never thought was possible. For a short period, life was almost normal. Each day was a gift.
As his health declined again, hospice services increased. They provided an attendant to help with basic requirements. Cathie came to comfort Paul and to ease my concerns, and Cynthia began to visit him more frequently. We met with grief counselors who prepared us, and their support programs introduced me to new friends for my new life.
Hospice made it possible for Paul to be comfortable in a familiar, pleasant environment – home – until the end. He was free of pain because of carefully administered medicine. There were no waiting rooms, IV tubes, nurses waking him up at all hours to take his medicine. No strangers, no bland hospital food, and no noise. Paul was able to die in the same manner in which he lived – with dignity, love, and comfort.