Tag Archives: hospice

Docs and Codes

I went through a lot helping spay/neuter 2,500 feral cats, many more now since I moved to a place where they shoot cats and ask questions later.

As head of Transport I made sure the cats got down the line from tipping (tip the right ear as these cats are smart enough never to be trapped again and caretakers know which ones had already been done), so ears and vaccines. At the end of the line was fleas and combing. I had to make sure the cat did not awaken during that time before he/she was put in a numbered crate. We took good care of them as I had crate cleaners pre-surgery and breathers post-surgery. Good folks.

If the tag came out with a code for tapeworms I knew the docs or ER would take care of it. If I found it I just brought the cat back into the OR to document the issue so ER could issue the drug. Docs asked how I knew a cat had tapeworms. Little pieces of rice that move. After a couple of months they believed me and signed the order. This is the only time this cat has to be healthy so if he/she has any type of worms it is the time to fix it.

I quickly learned all the codes I had to transmit to ER and Transport and Breathers, they made rounds and made certain they were breathing until they awakened from anesthesia. I made my own wake-up list on my computer so they could check a form so they knew one had not awakened as yet (extra care) and another was just taking a nap.

Two stories, sad and scary. I’ll do scary first.

An eight-week old kitten came out of surgery and was barely breathing. ER was a van. I climbed in and had to give him slight acupressure until he was breathing on his own. I called for a volunteer to get his crate by number and lifted him into it. He had extra breather instructions to keep a close eye on him and he was OK.

The saddest was when I saw a Dr. code I did not recognize. HBC. I asked ER what it meant. She said Hit By Car. The docs did everything they could do but he didn’t make it and died in the van. We all cried. Fellow volunteers took photos that day, one of my butt reaching down to check on a cat before we had tables (made by volunteers, more like folding sawhorses with plywood). Heaven will bless them for that gesture. The other was of the cat, hoping for the best and not getting there that day. We did make a great difference but it was so sad to see one go.

Often when a family member is ill and actually has health insurance and is in hospital or hospice the best thing you can do is be there. Years ago my mother had cancer surgery and my new husband and I flew out to see her. We walked into the room after she had dismissed us over Thanksgiving then the next day because I got the flu and my dear husband said, after a couple of years, hello.

He changed the subject. He was not talking about her cancer, but about his father and selling the dairy and starting the ranch. He left to use the restroom and she said the nicest thing she ever said to me, “he’s a sweetheart.” I know, mom, I married him. She appreciated that he told her stories from a kind of life she’d never lived.

Be kind. Back up your beliefs. Love your family and friends. Cheers, Dee


Changing Roles

When we first met nearly 15 years ago my husband brought me roses. Usually arranged, in a vase. Eventually I ran out of room for vases so he bought me roses I needed to arrange, just at the time I needed to get dinner on the table. He’s allergic to cats so I found him a place 1,000 steps away. I brought over a few key kitchen elements (he only had a lame plastic colander from college days).

Oh, he has clues to make a grilled cheese sandwich but does not cook, at all. OK. He wanted to use all the kitchen machines I had before we met so we have made pancakes with whipped egg whites (he looked up a recipe) and fresh pasta with my hand-crank counter machine.

Both were successful. It would be fun if he can make cranberry or blueberry pancakes with our nephew over the holidays (before he becomes a teenager and stops talking to us)! I can call out the recipe and they can do the work! And clean up. That’s not a strength, the “human tornado” is called that for a reason. The tornado is the husband, not his younger brother’s son.

Yesterday I bought him pink and white tulips. I was running around doing things before he flew home (three hours late, got in after midnight and crashed on the bed after Otis-ing the lame old dog up).

The tulips were on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes or so while I was laundering and running a very loud and long dishwasher. I arranged the tulips, prepared the vase with flower food, cut the stems and voila!

The pink ones sagged but they all reached for the sun this morning so I turned them around. They are technically dead but still responding to food, water and sunlight. Kind of like family in hospice care. There for a week, my dear husband told my mother on her deathbed that he’d take care of me. He told me later, he has and will do so but I take care of him as well.

Sadly, my husband did get in after midnight, has a cold and I got up at five to get our dog out of his way, cover him and have tea and chicken soup ready to go. It’s nearly seven in the morning now and he’s snoring away. That’s the way he likes to deal with colds and flu. It works. If my brother had a cold/flu he could sleep 14 hours straight and awaken well. Whatever works.

Zoe is by my office chair, as always. We’ll let J sleep and see if any of our packages that were supposed to be here yesterday, arrived. Luckily his year’s supply of doc-ordered contacts arrived safely. He was in desperate need of those for work and life. I worry about him always.

He’s sick and is only home two days per week now. I can only hope that sleep, tea, soup, perhaps pizza or St. Louis style ribs will get him well. That is my wish. Dee


No, not posts, I’m way beyond that. Years. My dear friend lost her mother, age 100.

She’s a hospice nurse/manager of a bunch of people now. When she was an ER nurse years ago she told me to keep all my dog’s stuff right where it was before she died until I was ready to let go of it. She was correct.

I advised her to take her own advice. Wait and find out where your mother, in hopefully a will, told you where things go, or if you have to wing it, choose the daughter who loved that pin or that set of earrings.

Now my old dog is in our favorite park we enjoyed together near a tree our neighbors bought the City in her memory. My mother’s ashes are in the Pacific Ocean.

One story I can tell is that our first “date” 14 years ago included 14 pet visits, including my dear friend’s dog Harley, fish Dave (Harley-Davidson), cats Moccasin and Coppertop and a bird Tweety.

I know what I’ll do, go to the Harley-Davidson Museum in honor of Mom. And herring. Hey, girls, what do you think? Harleys, not herring. All for now, Dee

Loved Ones

When a loved one is in hospital or hospice, every night take notes. Write essential questions and get to the hospital early. The docs like to visit for their 3-5 minutes before family arrive so be there and have your questions ready.

Get them answered. When you ask why X has not responded to the surgery and is sicker than before it, Doc will tell you it’s normal and to check back tomorrow. Then you find out the wrong surgeon did the operation of a specialist who didn’t show up and caused cancer to go everywhere and kill your loved one, X.

Be very kind to the nurses. Doc’s are only there for five minutes per day. Nurses have shifts. Get to know their names. Ask them questions and leave the room when needed (if Y needs bathing, a linens change and such).

Eat. Do leave while your loved one sleeps. You must keep up your strength. Coffee, soda and machine-generated snacks do not count. Get out. Breathe a bit of fresh air. Arm yourself for the next battle.

Talk with friends and family. Even if you’re a long-time spouse whose lifetime love and best friend is in that hospital bed, reach out to others.

If the situation is serious and Z will not make it take a few moments to compose yourself and assure yourself you are ready for the loss and will recoup from it bringing Z’s love, wishes and intents with you. Then talk to Z and see what s/he wishes. Last rites? Burial, papers, who to contact. Contact everyone s/he asked about and ask if they’ve anything to convey. Do not ask them all to visit. Anyone who stays around for a few days is close. You don’t want the boss or golf partner showing up out of the blue, that’s what funerals are all about and why acquaintances are not at the hospital with you and other family members.

If needed, make final arrangements. Hopefully there is a will and executor of such. Get through the formalities, even if you must host a post-funeral event.

Grieve. By being there you’ve done much of it. Rest. Get away for a week or two. You have life, and hopefully your spouse, sibling or friend will care for you as you did for Z, Y, or X. Always with hope for ailing friends, Dee

The Best Things

The best things we do often involve sacrifice of a sort. Sitting by one’s mother at hospice for a week. Helping euthanize loved pets when they needed it.

Ones we love come with a price. Either they go, or we go, and I’m at that age when things are happening with us and with more elderly family members.

I’m not really good at this. I learned that early on with a field trip to a hospital with a colleague, he was great with the patients, all I wanted to do was cry. Same with organizing carol singing at a local hospital, where I hung back and sang and tried to control tears. I’m better with animals and have helped others, and two of mine, go to their final reward.

I do take solace in St. Francis, and my favorite priest. I worry about my dad and want to see him, even wrote him a blues song and sang it on his voice mail today. I know my pets are OK with me, and need to plan for Zoe when the time comes and make certain my husband is there with us. Again, I can deal with animals humanely, people who are sick or dying require more fortitude and stamina on my part to make them feel comfortable and at ease with their condition and future.

We’ll be married 12 years on Sunday and are across the country from one another. Our dog Zoe will be eleven. Mom would have been 79. Zoe has a gift, in that she has little past and no future plans except the next walk or meal. She doesn’t remember that cousin Val took out her hips at six and nine-months of age, and just loves Val.

I sometimes wish it was that simple for human beings. Then again, my past has allowed me to change things in order to shape the present and the future. That’s where it gets complicated.

Today, I wish all our older family members a great day, weekend, week, year, years, decades. Family or family pets, be there. Let them know you love them. Dee


In The End

one only has oneself to answer to. At hospice I would hope that my husband would visit, hold my hand, make sure the pain meds were on track then let me go and dispose of me as I wish, so I must make that clear as must you.

I mean, if he can’t take care of the dog, there are none on my side of the family and on his they either get run over by trucks or live outside with farm animals and don’t sleep in our bed. He’d have to get a permanent sitter or trophy wife.

In the end I hope that WordPress spends more time helping writers get through the tech stuff instead of helping tech-savvy people get extra credit because you write their posts.

In the end I wish that no animals are euthanized for lack of a good home and that people can be euthanized if they wish it and they are severely ill with no hope of recovery.

I hope that every family loves their children and brings them up to be educated, healthy and look towards college and a great career.

Any situation calls for humor, patience, trust and grace. I’ll leave my desk now lest my dear mother-in-law’s advice (she’s a nurse) is not taken. Lay down, dear and keep your feet above your heart. Bless hers, and yours and I’m not dying yet, so you don’t have to sign on now or worry about me. I’ve a trifle to make Wednesday for a party and a pup to take out this week. Most is well except my husband is off on business and dogma and I miss him, Dee

Father McGuinness

I hope he doesn’t mind my telling this story. He knows an abbreviated version of it. When my parents were to be married (Dad was Lutheran) they promised their children would be raised in the Roman Catholic Church.

An earlier story may be relevant to the main issue. At age seven, my younger sister told a nun at CCD (every week we left school early to go to religious instruction) she didn’t need the box with 52 envelopes for giving for the next year. Each envelope had our names on them so they could total our gifts.

The nun insisted. My sister said no. Finally my sister said “I won’t take them because we go to St. Patrick’s on Sunday, not St. Joseph’s!” Oops.

Move forward to four years ago and our mother is in wonderful hospice care. We know she only has a few days to live and her morphine intake is increasing to alarming rates for someone who is down to perhaps 70 lbs.

At dinner I mention a priest in front of my three siblings and my husband. Years ago my mother had said to a priest that if she wanted him, she’d go to church, if she wants a doctor, she’s in the hospital, which she was at the time.

They all said no. No religion, no priests. It took several hours but I finally got them to agree that if Mom said yes to a priest for last rites, it was her decision. Afterwards, to lighten the mood, I made a joke and spoke fake Irish and said I was Father McGuinness (my brother was sipping a Guinness at the time).

The next morning I visited my mother, and everyone else came as well. I talked with the chaplain and told her of our discussion and said my mother didn’t like me very much, never had, so could she broach the discussion of a priest.

She did and my mother said “yes” immediately. I thought she had little time left and the priest had just left for the day. I asked the chaplain to get him back.

An hour later, I left her room to use the restroom and a priest came towards me and said, “You must be Dee, my name is Father McGuinness.” We went into her room and he performed last rites and we all said that we loved her. Unbeknownst to me, my husband said, “I’ll take care of her.”

Fr. M turned out to be the priest of the parish she joined before she got cancer. I gave them a small donation (we were just out of Hurricane Ike) and he called me and I thanked him personally and told him this story.

We just moved to a very Catholic city, I try to stay in touch with my college sociology mentor, Fr. Cap, and there are reasons things happen. I know that my husband is here for a job. I’m here for another reason and someone will tell me what that is and I’ll know what I’m meant to do here.

I stopped by a church for the architecture and while the doors were locked, the plaque outside said the parish was “Three Holy Women.” I’m not religious, but have ended up at out-of-the-way churches giving women money to take care of feral cats, while studying Annunciation paintings in Florence.

I can’t call my mentor or Fr. McG, it’ll come to me. Yes, say that I’m crazy. There’s a lot going on and I need to do taxes, move, fly to an important burial all this month! Who knows. All I can say is thanks for reading and writing! Dee

Can You Top This?

Today my dear friend of 35 years lost his mom, as I did two years ago. We’re that age, being at the end of the boomers, where we may not be fully grown yet but our parents are dying.

We don’t talk about keggers anymore (at least I don’t) but my mother lasted two weeks in hospice and his lasted three. I don’t know if that’s better or worse because everyone is different and their conditions differ as well. Let’s hope the suffering was kept at a minimum for the patients, and the families.

At this age and with time after a parent’s death the “kids” are able to explain a good or bad hospice experience. I feel like just yesterday I was fearless, fit and fabulous. Now I’ve taken on a volunteer commitment that requires physical activity like kneeling on concrete floors and it reminds me that I’m aging too.

So when you’re feeling down, no matter the cause, think about the good stuff, listen to Jerry Jeff Walker’s London Homesick Blues and go home with the armadillo. With utmost respect, Dee

Rice Pudding

Mom always had a full meal for dinner, when I was growing up, that always included a homemade dessert. Yes, she got her hair done every week while Alison and I were at ballet lessons, and wore a dress to vacuum the house.

I think of taste and texture when I think of rice pudding. I can already hear my siblings laughing at me. But I never got it. It always seemed strange. Perhaps I’ll look for the perfect recipe, make it and try again.

As to desserts (which I do not make) her Dutch apple cake was great. Apple pie, amen. Cheesecake tastes wonderful but is almost healthy. Viennese torte was for birthdays. I would have loved one for my 50th, coming up very soon, but that is not to be.

I’d like to publish some of our family recipes but it may take a while to do so. We so enjoyed our time at the table. Hopefully we will, without Mom. It’ll be sad for a while after she’s gone. Dee


In more ways than one. I dealt with the chaplain and priest to allow my mother the peace she needs to let go. She’s a fighter, tough bird, and I feel bad being back here at Hurricane Central. There may be no way for me to go

Mom's Gerberas

Mom's Gerberas

back to the Catholic church but I have been in touch with my favorite priest, advisor, mentor Fr. Cap from college days since Mom has been in such distress. He just lost his twin brother John to a stroke a few weeks ago.

Spaghetti squash. I bought one yesterday and know how to roast it but didn’t know that the larger they are, the more strands (delicate ones) can be obtained. Also, recipes mainly call for a microwave with plastic atop the squash. I won’t do that. So I’m a spaghetti squash convert.