the “H” word

11 08 2008

Talk about a roller coast of emotions. Yikes…we are in the big leagues here folks. With each step in this journey there has been an overwhelming sense of peace and “rightness” about each decision. I felt that again today but not without some fleeting moments of panic that set in right on its heels.

On Saturday I decided to call Hospice to begin a more comprehensive information gathering. Of course we needed the doctor’s order to start the process and even though we’ve danced around the subject over the last months I knew I needed to know HOW to start this thing for real. When I found out that our doctor was on call for his practice this weekend – that made a huge difference to me. I could have waited till business hours on Monday but these days are NOT just 24 hours long.

The increased amount of oxygen was a help. Things were very quiet today – like step down quiet…not much food (banana for breakfast, 4 bites of mashed potatoes for lunch, a couple of cups of tea, a muffin), not as moving from room to room to try to get comfortable. He was outside for a bit, maybe a half hour sitting in the sun with Mom, but decidedly weaker and less talkative. He’s even given up his favorite hobby of the trash collecting. Well I take that back a bit – when he went outside – he had three “orange” mini-bags and an empty pepsi can to smash (which he did with a good deal of force I might add) to put in their proper places.

It was 3 p.m. when the nurse came for the assessment process. RIght away she was quick to let me know that he could be much more comfortable than he’s been…she judged what she saw as labored breathing. I thought his breathing was almost as calm as I’ve seen it! Now who doesn’t know jack? She was forthright in letting me know that we’d not been hasty in our judgement as when was the right time to get started. She ordered the meds – they’d be delivered later – changed the oxygen machine to one with higher output (it got deliver within an hour or so) and lickitysplit we were rolling.

My immediate sense was relief – that I had meds in hand that gives me the power to make him more comfortable. But let me tell you – the first time I filled the eyedropper (with like 2 drops) I felt very strange…but I must remember – this is the power to comfort. So I go from being terrified that he wanders all night to terrified that he’s resting comfortably? The deal is that these meds can be given on an HOURLY basis. HOURLY.

Now tomorrow when the regular hospice nurse comes for the first time (3x a week plus people to help with bathing and shaving – who’d a thunk it?) I’ll figure out more…is this like not waking a sleeping baby to feed it? Is it really hungry if it’s asleep? If a tree falls in the forest…

The entire hour or so that she was here – Billy was in and out – snoozing, almost fell off the little settle bench he likes to sit on, startling then sleeping again. When it was time for her to go he roused and we were all saying good-byes and he said to her, “Yeah, I need to get up and move around. Think I’ll go play some basketball…” and he proceeded to tell her how when we used to “LET HIM DRIVE” (ouch) he’d go to the church gym every morning – walk 100 paces or something then shoot 4 hoops in a row and if he’d miss – he’d start again. That was just a little over a year ago.

It’s really good for me to remember those 365 days. And when my breathing gets a tad fast, I’ll need to remember that this is best. This is hard but this is good. I read today in one of the miriad of pamphlets thrown my way by hospice – that this is like the birthing process in reverse. Both involve alot of pain – both end with joy and relief…and after a very little while, we forget the pain and are left with the joy. And no one knows how long a labor we will be having…




8 responses

11 08 2008
Magik Quilter

Glad to know the hospice nurse is there now…well three times a week and hope Billy is sleeping more through the night. Where is the pain… is it the heart pain due to the congestive failure? And how often does he need those drops at present? Its not hourly yet is it? Hard to know about the waking to give it..might depend on if he gets back to sleep again and/or if he is distressed in his sleep in the first place. You are not going to be alone at night to do the hourly are you …when it is needed I mean?

11 08 2008
Jenine Sloan


Thanks for giving me the website info. John and I love your parents deeply. We will be praying for all of you in the days and weeks ahead.

11 08 2008

magik – yes he’s alot more comfortable now. there is no pain – he gets restless from the problems breathing so the morphine is to help the breathing and another med is for anxiety etc. Three drops at a time, hourly if needed but we’re giving minimal doses and it does the trick. Hospice explained that at the stage he’s at you have the general decline that has been rapid so he’s not moved out of bed today, no food, some water…and it’s all “normal” process. I judge his comfort by his face (grimace or not), clenched fists, squirming, etc. or panting. They reminded me that I don’t have to give hourly if not deemed necessary so if he is quiet all night and I sleep all night fine. We are considering a move to the hospice center within a day or two for my mom’s sake too. more on that later.

11 08 2008

Surely there must be a more graceful way for someone to exit this life. Sorry, but the pain of losing loved ones who have led such dignified and caring lives in such an undignified manner makes me wonder…..

11 08 2008

this is the hardest part – wrestling with questions that may not have apparent answers. we all wish for that but it looks like I don’t get to choose. I’m still hearing humor in the things he says and little actions he’s capable of. I don’t want this lasting a minute longer than it has to for his sake but the bittersweet by product is that I’m learning from him every minute he has left. Lucky me.

11 08 2008

btw chas i love you…and our family is so incredible and so unique. but you have lost more than all of us together to this point and i don’t get that. no answers – but the legacy that both of them left behind is great. carry on.

12 08 2008

Those McNiece brothers sure have cast a giant shadow. What was their secret?

12 08 2008

i’ve gotta post i’m working on that starts to put those puzzle pieces together…good Irish stock (not our family connection but the ancestors connection). People who knew how to work hard, be honest, love deeply, passion in their souls…we know because we ARE. To the MacGregor clan!

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