Healthcare

We Always Need Our Moms

First, before going too far, I want to wish everyone a very happy Mother’s Day. Being recognized once a year is not nearly enough. Being a mom is a 24/7, 365 days a year job.

Speaking from the standpoint of someone who grew up an only child, I may be a little biased. My mom was the most important person in the world to me. She was my everything, my best friend, my cheerleader and my comforter. I swear she could make anything in life better. Was she perfect? No. I didn’t expect her to be.

We would go on trips and even as I went through college, she would sing Girl Scout songs in the car the entire way. That alternated with the Beatles, so overall it was a good exposure to music appreciation. At least that’s what I always thought and still do.

She was an amazing cook when I was younger. As I got older I discovered that either my taste-buds weren’t fully developed, OR she was losing her knack for making everything taste good. She was the only person that I had ever seen put baking soda in spaghetti sauce. P.S. I would NOT recommend doing that. It tastes absolutely disgusting but makes for good stories years down the road.

As a teacher in a one-room school when I started Kindergarten, she was my teacher through second grade. Some days it felt like I had to be the luckiest kid on the face of the earth and others it seemed like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Mom and teacher could be a little much to handle sometimes. But I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.

Our house burned down when I was five. My sixth sense saved us as we went to visit friends, literally minutes before our house was engulfed in flames and collapsed. It was then that I learned what really mattered in life. It wasn’t the material possessions. We were both alive and that was all that was important. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, yet she managed to help me get through it, while I helped her.

She had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was in High School. My invincible mother suddenly was losing her magic touch. Changing more into a caregiver and less into the one being cared for was a difficult transition. Moms aren’t supposed to get sick. They are supposed to have super human powers or at least we grow up thinking that.

In 2010, once again I helped her. She had a surgery that ultimately ended up with her on life support, clinging by a thread. For two weeks, I did everything in my power to will her back. The first night in ICU, I watched the defibrillator used on her. Being a nurse is one thing but being a daughter who knows exactly what is going on is heart-wrenching. Separating out the nurse and the daughter roles were the only way I knew how to focus.

Ultimately, we lost the battle. She was finally free, and, in that sense, we won. No longer dealing with a disease that ultimately would have beaten her at some point, the invisible ropes tying her with so many symptoms were gone.

Although the hardest time in my life was the final few moments, knowing that she had already gone. It was just a shell that remained. My superhero disguised as a mom was no longer here.

What I’ve discovered in the past seven and a half years continues to get me through each time that I want her here with me. Our mothers live in our hearts long after they have passed. We are a part of them and always will be. There are signs everywhere that give me every reason to know that she never left my side. Why? Because believing in something is better than having no hope.

We always need our moms, no matter how old we are. Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom that ever walked this earth..

If Roses grow in Heaven
Lord, please pick a bunch for me.
Place them in my Mother’s arms
and tell her they’re from me.

Tell her that I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for a while.

Because remembering her is easy,
I do it every day,
but there’s an ache within my heart
that will never go away.

– Unknown Author

 roses

Advertisements
Healthcare

Giving permission–the final gift

As November is coming to an end, so is Hospice and Palliative Care month along with Caregiver month. I have another topic that I want to touch on. Giving permission. That may seem like something simple, but in reality is something that we don’t do nearly enough.

Many of you have probably heard it said that you need to give your loved ones permission to die. It is absolutely true. I have had numerous patients clinging to life by a thread. Until they were given permission by everybody close to them, they would not pass on. A lot of people also will wait for someone. Sometimes they are waiting on a child to come home, which was the case with my Grandfather. When his last son came home and said goodbye, he passed away the next morning.

One of my ICU patients could have passed at any moment. He was unresponsive and I had told him numerous times throughout my shift that it was okay to go. However his family was all standing at the foot of his bed and hadn’t said a word to him. After telling them the importance of saying goodbye and giving permission, each one of them went to the head of the bed. One at a time they held his hand, gave him a kiss, said their goodbyes and most important GAVE PERMISSION. They said that they would be okay once he was gone. They still would love him with all of their hearts’.

Within sixty seconds, I noticed a change on the monitor. He was starting to have pauses between heartbeats. Short ones at first and then longer. At the two-minute mark…nothing. He had passed away. He had been given the permission that he needed. That was one of the most poignant deaths that I have seen.

Most recently, actually last week, I was able to see a very good friend of mine. She had ovarian cancer and was terminal. I knew it would be my only chance to see her before she passed. Each time we had talked over the last few months, I could tell that she was progressing. She was also a nurse–actually became one because of my Grandmother. When I called her last week, my heart sunk when I heard her voice. I knew she wasn’t going to make it much longer.

As she was sitting in her chair talking to family and friends, she never let go of my hand. When everyone had left, we were able to talk candidly. I asked if she had considered hospice yet, she replied she had thought about it, but nobody had brought it up. My gut was telling me that she had days. We talked about that it was a hard decision to stay and that is was an equally hard decision to go. Quality of life was a priority. We talked about that she would have a wealth of people waiting for her on the other side, including my Mother. I told her to give my Mom a hug and say hi when she got up there and that I would see her again soon enough.

With tears in my eyes when I gave her a final hug and said goodbye, there was a peacefulness that washed over her. It wasn’t there when I showed up. I had given her permission and brought up something that nobody else had. I wasn’t doing it because I’m a nurse, I did it because I was her friend. We spoke on the phone Saturday night and she said that she was trying to figure out if it was worth trying to keep fighting. I told her that I loved her and also said that I thought it was time for her to let go…she died the next night.

The power of permission is beyond measure. It is beyond anything that medicine can do. It is something that we all need to remember and not be afraid of. It is empowering to those we give it to.

To some death seems like a cut and dry process. To anyone that has been involved with patients, parents, family members or friends, we know that this process is so complex and emotional for everyone involved.

There is a stigma that seems to hang around death. It seems that once the funeral is over, then suddenly society expects that grief should also end. That is most definitely not the case. Grief continues for years. It changes form, it lessens, but I don’t know if it ever truly ceases. We learn to incorporate it into our lives. But, it is always brought back to the surface with the holiday season, birthdays, anniversaries and a litany of other dates that bring back treasured memories. That is how we cope. It means that we truly love someone and they will always live in our heart. It’s okay to grieve, just as it is okay to give permission.

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. –Anne Lamott

stars.jpg