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.


  1. Wede, though we've never met, I love you for all your inspiring words, for the incredible children you've raised, and for all the laughs, oooohs, ahhhhhs, and mmmmms I've had simply because I was privileged enough to observe one of the most loving mother-daughter relationships through my friendship with Deeg and, by extension, with you. You are so deeply and widely loved. Love, me

  2. Hi Phil...I've never answered a blog before, but here goes. We're awfully sorry hear that Hospice is once again "knocking at your door." Maybe they will find it futile again. We hope so. We feel very negligent about seeing you but, as you probably know, Sukie sprained her ankle & is in a wheelchair so we aren't very mobile just now, and we get our info. about you thru Ibby. I'm the lead caregiver so I haven't much spare time. If you are accepting visitors, I'll make the time. We both send our love & hope all will keep on being at peace like last night. Love to you all...Bob & Sukie

  3. I will be sharing this and many other blog posts you have written with my aging and infirm grandmother. It is difficult to be away from her knowing she is in the last stage of life but I'm hoping if I can read your thoughts to her via Skype she will find solace in not being alone in her experience. Above all I know she will enjoy your sense of humor and realistic yet positive attitude. You tell it like it is and I think yours is a voice much needed in our present world. Thank you for sharing.

    All the best from Tanzania,

  4. Dearest Phyllis....I'm a new reader of you-- & lucky me! My boyfriend passed your blog on, knowing my fetish for all things "grandmotherly"-- which is as much a stylistic distinction as it is an age. You are a delight to "greet" in these funny virtual realms. I too read that NYer article with a similar cosmic stir in my throat. If nothing else, to hear a practicing physician be so frank about our collective predicament and collective (by and large) inability to face it was as moving as the tornado that just swept through Brooklyn. Fast and real.

    With heart and tremendous respect, SARA