A Culture of Care!

I recently lost my sister, Melania, to Diabetes at the age of 63. Many of you acknowledged my memorial post to her a couple of weeks ago and you can’t imagine the comfort that was, especially to my Mother. I copied everyone of them for her. I appreciate each and every one of you for your thoughts and prayers. As I’ve learned, most patients with this challenge spend a lot of time in denial of having it. My sister was no different. She came out of the womb with a sword and shield and she fought to the end, not wanting the daily requirements that go with having this disease to disrupt or distract her life. She made no apologies and asked for no exceptions, living her life as she wanted. As precious as it would have been to have her with us for a lot longer, I never heard a word of regret pass her lips. Melania’s final journey actually began last November, when her body really began to rebel against her. The last seven months (both in Texas, where she lived with her husband and here in Northwest Arkansas, where she passed) was a series of doctor’s visits, intermittent weekly stays in the hospital, numerous visits to the ER, countless blood sugar checks, blood pressure checks, iv’s, pills, antibiotics, insulin injections, and finally dialysis, when her kidneys started failing for good. I think the family would agree that the hardest part was watching vascular dementia set in as the blood sugar spikes (both high and low) started taking precious oxygen from her brain cells, to the point that she had no short-term memory and very little long-term memory at all. What I want to share with this post is that the most peaceful time Melania had during this entire journey was the last 5 days she spent at Circle of Life Hospice at Legacy Village (http://nwacircleoflife.com/), where we referred her from the hospital. I’m not so sure that the peacefulness wasn’t as much of a blessing to the rest of the family as it was to Melania. For us, the burden of care was lifted to the degree that we could focus on enjoying our final week with her and sharing memories that were the substance of our love for her. For Melania, it was being released from the never-ending poking and prodding, nausea, loss of appetite, medication, nurses, doctors, etc. Though she never came awake during those last five days, it was visibly clear to us that she was as at peace as she’d ever been. For us, that was the real blessing. I’ve been a friend of Circle of Life since 2000. Shortly after I retired from my previous career, I was invited to participate in a capital campaign for an expansion of the Earlene Howard Hospice Home in Springdale. I was then invited to join the Board, eventually becoming Board President and presiding over the expansion of Circle into Benton County. In a partnership between the Board and the Leadership Team of Circle, the single-minded focus was to ensure the ‘culture of care’ at Circle was unique and beyond the pale. My message today is an affirmation that the culture of care at Circle is still unique and beyond the pale. From the moment I called CEO Catherine Grubbs; to my first contact at the hospital on the same day with the Circle Hospice Liaison at Mercy; to my first contact with Connie, the Social Worker at the Hospice Home; to our family’s first discussion with Dr. Stephen Carter (MD, HDMC); to our interactions over the ensuing week with RN Cindi, RN Kathy, Elko the chef (I remember when she was hired and she’s still there taking care of those families during their stay); Yessee, Nurses Assistant; the Chaplain and the rest of the care support staff I wish I could name individually. Their singular focus was on providing comfort and peace to not just Melania, but the entire family. As an organizational professional, I was overjoyed to see the continuation of the same unique culture of care that was put in place many years ago. There are 12 rooms at the Hospice Home and I watched and reflected as each of those rooms (a few of them twice over) received the loved ones of families and gave them all the same consistent, loving care and comfort that Melania and our family received. The real impact, though, was on a personal level. I’d been to the Hospice Home many times to pay my respects and final visits with many friends over the last few years, but never with a relative. During the final five days there with the family, I kept thinking of the primary reason I’d volunteered at Circle in the first place. I was so impressed with their focus on care that I wished they’d been available for my Father when he passed many years ago. It just wasn’t the same experience and I was so grateful to see Melania at rest and the rest of the family finally at peace with her passing. I’ve received follow up cards and condolences from the folks at Circle and this post is the best way I can think of, not only to respond and let them know how much we appreciated all of them, but to let the rest of the community and beyond know how unique the culture of care at Circle of Life Hospice really is and how much of a blessing it was to my family. Thank you Circle of Life and may the good Lord continue to bless your organization and your good works!

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