Linda, an RN living in Arkansas, is sharing her story with us.
I remember Michael so clearly because of his last wish and how the hospice team helped to make it happen. Michael was a young man whose far advanced cancer was rapidly shortening his life. Although cared for at home by his young wife for many weeks he and his family felt that inpatient care was necessary due to the amount of physical care he needed and the fact that he did not want to die at home in front of his three children.
One day Michael requested something we felt we could not give him. He, whose condition was considered imminent, wanted to see his children in the natural setting of their home one last time before he died. His wife and family felt it was a bad idea. They lived a long way out in the country and they were afraid that he might die at home, which nobody wanted to happen.
Michael promised everyone he would not die in front of his children and that it was very important to him to see his children at home. All sorts of persuasion did not change his desire or his promise. As the Hospice nurse supervisor, who believes people have more control over their time of death than we give them credit for, I began the plans for Michael to fulfill his last wish and go home for a few hours.
An ambulance was arranged to take Michael home and then to return him to the inpatient facility later in the day. His condition continued to deteriorate but with all the arrangements in place Michael went home.
Early the next morning I received a call that Michael had died before arriving back at the hospital. I was very upset that I had been a party to encouraging this trip even though it was somewhat against the family’s wishes.
I immediately phoned the family to express my condolences and apologies for following Michael’s wishes and not the family’s. The wife immediately said, after I identified myself, “Thank you for arranging this last visit. The children loved sitting and visiting with their father. He seemed so happy and content. It was such an added blessing to our short lives together.” I remorsefully said, “But he died at home and we promised you he wouldn’t do that.” “Oh no!” she replied and proceeded to say how, after a wonderful visit, Michael asked her to call the ambulance. The driver arrived and put a contented Michael in the vehicle. At the gate to the property the attendant got out of the ambulance to secure the gate and when he returned he looked at Michael, who smiled, and then took his last breath.
We have limited control over the time that we die as Linda’s story shows.
Michael got his wish AND kept his promise.