Saturday, July 31, 2010

On being a (Hospice) patient

I am in Hospice Care, at home, in my own bed and it is weird, unreal, surreal, but REAL. I finally know that the root of my evil is a failing heart with its fibrillations and pacemakers and old valves. They, or it, has a right. It's 90 years old, for heaven sakes.

After a miserable month of retching and nausea that made me moan like the tennis Williams sisters' serving, my doctor could not prescribe for me, without actually seeing me. I knew I could not go to his office. Our son Tim found a way. He secured an impressive  private ambulance service who maneuvered their way down my terrifying driveway. DG rode with the driver, Tim followed. They took me to a pre-arranged examining room, the IV was set-up and waiting, the EKG was done, blood drawn, a thorough end-of-life talk ( no death panel, this) and by the time the ambulance got me home, I was enrolled in Hospice.  

My New Yorker magazine ( August 2 issue) arrived the next day, and although I had not felt like reading for weeks, I was drawn in by the cover. There was this little old person, pedalling all alone on a yellow road, through a lovely forest. The rider had to be me; I was on the road to eternity. When I looked at the table of contents, I found an Annals of Medicine article, "Letting Go", a scholarly, well-documented argument in favor of Hospice care, written by Atul Gawande , Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. I am likely reading more into this than it is, I know, but it felt absolutely cosmic to me.

That night, I fell into the first real sleep I had had in over a month, not drug-induced, just good old-fashioned sleep-sleep. The crickets, the katydids, the cicadas were singing a musical, a magical surround-sound  outaide my bedroom window. I was at peace with myself, with our hard-won decision. I am in the hands of the Lord.