When the hospice nurse becomes the sister at the bedside...
Updated: Jan 23, 2022
About a week ago, on my sisters birthday (who has been gone seven years), I received a phone call from my other sister that our brother was on a ventilator in the ICU 1,186.2 miles away. So many feelings raced through my head and my heart, most importantly the realization of the time we allowed to come between us... I haven't talked to him in far too long. This is something I regret.
My family, while filled with beautiful, wonderful people, are scattered all over the globe and we do not talk or visit very often, however since the news of my brother fighting for his life, we have all come together in a way that fills my heart. For the past week we have communicated well as we navigated all the choices and decisions that needed to be made. We had to prepare for every outcome, knowing there was a good chance we might have to make some very difficult decisions, but not once giving up hope that he could make it out of this. And we did this together.
I talked to the nurses several times a day, every day, I asked them to hold the phone to his ear so I could let him know that we were all rallying for him. I took a leave of absence from work, I arranged for a cat sitter, and I flew to Montana to be at his bedside. I am here now as I write this.
When I am at the bedside with a family member, I know just what to say to them to help them navigate those last moments. I feel confident in the care I provide and the knowledge I carry with me to be certain they have said and done everything possible, so that their take-away is that of being fully present for someone they love. And yet, I find myself at a total loss as I sit and watch him. I am scared, I am sad, I ache in my heart so deeply that sometimes it takes my breath away. I have so many things I want to say to him, and I so desperately want him to get through this and be okay. I have cried so much that my eyes are constantly burning and I am tired... physically and emotionally exhausted... and I am sad.
At this time he is on a ventilator, he is fighting for his life. He is non responsive and makes absolutely no indication that he hears me or knows I am here. But I know... I know he knows and I know he hears me, so I talk to him, I play music, I massage his hands and feet, and I just read him a few pages of a very trashy magazine. And I refuse to give up hope.
If given the chance to ask for a do-over, the very first thing I would do is go back into time to the moment we stopped talking, and I would change that. I say this all the time, but for some reason it makes even far more sense to me now... life is fragile and it is precious.
It's very different to be the sister at the bedside and not the hospice nurse. I am not nearly as prepared for this work when it is for someone I love. If I can ask for anything from all of you, it would be to please keep him, his son and daughters, our whole family, his girlfriend, and me in your thoughts. I accept all prayers, all healing thoughts/energy and love... lots and lots of love. And please ask me how I am... I need that most of all, because the truth is... I am not okay.
To my family, I love you so much.
To my brother... you are strong, you are brave and you can do this... I truly believe that and I refuse to give up hope.