Hey, Am I in Heaven?

nurses

Vintage photo, Navy nurses with patient around 1960.

In the early morning, before the hospice team meeting began and the patient care reports became formal, two nurses discussed a new 23-year-old patient.

When admitted into our hospice, this young patient had a Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) score of 60%. Her PPS* percentage meant she could easily get around her home and required minimal assistance for most daily activities. Compared to many patients, she was remarkably independent.

Less than two days later, she was in crisis.

Pain had suddenly wracked her body, and it took hours of intensive work for nurses to get her comfortable. She was in her twenties. She was strong. Her cancer was terrifying, but if—the nurses hoped—she could settle down, have her pain reduced, and get some sleep, then maybe . . .

She died.

How could someone active, and able to talk and share and wonder what the next meal or who the next visitor might be, die so quickly? The family and hospice staff that cared for the vibrant young woman was crushed. Read More →

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Morphine: the Misunderstood Medication

medication

My pain raged and roared. It only ebbed if I didn’t move. Which was impossible.

“They’re gonna give you morphine,” one of my companions said.

Another declared, “You’ll get addicted.”

Morphine? Really? Wasn’t that only in the movies? Wasn’t that nasty drug only as a last resort for the worst of the worst?

Whump-whump. Whump-whump.

We heard the whirling blades chopping the air before we spotted the helicopter angling between the mountain ridges. It was searching for a landing spot near where I lay by the circle of rocks from last night’s now cold campfire. At mid-day, several hours earlier, I had busted my leg while exploring the area with a group of kids from the church I then served. On a weekend backpack, we had found an inviting slope of snow—really more an ice field in that part of the summer—and decided to butt-slide down its tempting expanse. As the mature associate pastor, I went first. Read More →

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Do You Have a Moment?

one minute

Gotta minute?

In 2017, the life expectancy for an “average” American was 78 years. Simple multiplication means that the annual total of 525,600 minutes accumulates to 40,996,800 lifetime minutes.

In a minute, everything can change.

In hospice, every moment is precious.

How many minutes are wasted on worries that prove meaningless, or speaking meaningless (but hurtful) words we regret, or regretting decisions that meant there was less time with loved ones?

How many singular, wonderful moments become like doors into rooms decorated with experiences that will be treasured for the remainder of life? Read More →

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