Our son was born six weeks premature, and even though he seemed healthy, we learned he had heart abnormalities. After evaluating him, the heart specialist said, “We’re going to become very close friends.” Over the next five years, we did everything possible to fix his heart. There were multiple surgeries, and there were complications. We’d make medical choices and then we’d agonize over the suffering they caused him. Heroic efforts were made but nothing worked. When there were no viable options to save our child, my wife and I asked hospice for help. The pediatric hospice team at Hospice of Michigan helped to make this one of the best times of our son’s short life. No more invasive treatments. No more IVs. For several months, he was like any other five-year-old boy – living as happy and normal a life as his heart would allow.
Sigh of Relief
When my great grandmother was dying, I remember the day hospice came. My family was at her house – my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. It was spring and everyone was in the backyard talking and pacing and crying. We have a big family and it operates together – one big group. The focus was my grandmother’s pain, and the changes that seemed so hard to understand. My mother was scared. My grandmother was scared. They knew she was dying but they didn’t want her to suffer. Someone called Hospice of Michigan. No one really knew a lot about hospice then. It was just a word with good feelings attached. The hospice nurse came to my great grandmother’s house; she explained everything. She told us what to expect. She knew how to manage the pain. I remember watching the fear leave my mother’s face. It was a good day because everyone seemed to sigh in relief.
Sprinkles from Heaven
When her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer, every day they looked for “sprinkles from heaven” – like an unexpected call from a friend, the sight of a bright red cardinal on a housetop, a grandchild crawling onto his lap. They had been married for 54 years and they had been happy. They were still happy. Sometimes his friends would take him to the doctor. He called them “the boys.” He loved “the boys” but he couldn’t remember their names. For their last Christmas, he bought her a dozen roses. He had trouble signing his name on the card. Eventually they asked for hospice, and she says it was like a miracle. The thing she liked the most was that he was treated with such dignity. She says the help they gave her changed her life. Now she helps spread the word for Hospice of Michigan.
I’ve been married for 44 years, and this is the first time my wife has been really sick. The hardest thing was to see her in pain. She tried to hide it, and that made it worse. We tried a lot of treatments and a lot of doctors, and then one doctor helped us face the truth. He said she isn’t going to get better and we should ask for help. When he said hospice – I didn’t want to hear it. But he said that in a lot of ways her life would get better because hospice comes to us: they help us with the care, and manage the pain. He recommended Hospice of Michigan. As soon as the nurse came, my wife and I felt relieved. They cared about our feelings and knew what to do. We don’t know how much time we have, but everything is a lot better now.
When summer comes, traffic heading north from Detroit gets heavy, but hearts are light. Sand and water, and even an open rural road through a beach town have the power to lift the weary. My family has headed north for more than 50 years. When my grandparents were young, they put six kids in the Torino wagon and told the kids to shout when they saw the lake. My grandfather went north every summer – even his last. When his doctor told him he had just two months to live, he said, “I want to die at the cabin.” Hospice of Michigan has teams in northern Michigan and they got the cabin ready. For this journey north, I was at the wheel. He looked steadfastly out the window, and smiled at me when he said, “I’ll shout when I see the lake.”