The day began in Mom’s room with a 10:00 am conference at Upper Valley Medical Center, west of Columbus, Ohio. In attendance were my ninety-three-year-old mother Joanne (now in her third week of hospitalization), her palliative-care nurse Richard, her Episcopal priest Mother Nancy and myself.
Scott Janssen ~
“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.
“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.
“Does he have a gun or weapon?”
“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”
I was nervous. I had never been this close to someone who was about to die. I introduced myself, but the patient was non-responsive. I told her that I was going to sit with her and that I would stay for a few hours. As I sat down, I noticed her breathing–it was irregular, and each breath sounded like she was slowly and painfully drowning. Almost trying to distract myself
In 2010, I became a hospice volunteer.
My mother had died of a brain tumor five years earlier at age eighty-seven. I saw being a hospice volunteer as a way to express my gratitude for my mother’s compassionate hospice care and to help other caregivers to weather a loved one’s passing. And, as a former reporter and writer, I thought I could help people to write their life stories, if they
Mr. Dwyer isn’t my patient, but today I’m covering for my partner in our family-practice office, so he’s been slipped into my schedule.
Reading his chart, I have an ominous feeling that this visit won’t be simple.
A tall, lanky man with an air of quiet dignity, Mr. Dwyer is eighty-eight. His legs are swollen, and merely talking makes him short of breath.
He suffers from both congestive heart failure
About the artist:
“I’m a father, nurse, writer and humor lover. After my mom’s death in 1983, I became a hospice volunteer and then decided to go into medical service, leaving a photo career to do so. I went briefly into the NYC emergency medical service, then attended nursing school and went into AIDS
Once upon a time, I was a newspaper journalist: I chased down sources and sweated over deadlines. Then, in mid-career, I switched to doing marketing and communications for a regional healthcare system. This consisted of a large hospital and many outpatient clinics, including a community cancer center.
Because I handled communications work for the cancer center, I also had a seat on the Cancer Committee–an oversight group of oncologists, pathologists, nurses and other
Delores sits tilted to the right in a worn wheelchair, a curtain separating her from a sleeping roommate.
She is wearing a blue blouse stained with something orange, perhaps Jell-O, and white pants and white socks. A worn gold wedding band adorns the fourth finger of her left hand. Her hair is a shiny gray, perfectly coiffed,