Tuesday, May 31, 2011

She's still holding on...barely

If you would have told me that my Nonni would barely be hanging on today, for life, I would not have believed you. Just three weeks ago, I graduated college and she was right there—watching me walk across the stage. While she was not at her best, she was there. One week ago, today, we embarked on this scary and frightening road. My family and I hoped and prayed that she would bounce back…eventually. She always did; what made this time so different?

Four days ago, Nonni’s doctor ordered hospice. My mom and uncle, initially, looked for a facility. But it became clear that her needs were too great to be in a room by herself. She does not have the energy to call a nurse, every bone and muscle in her body hurts, and she was having trouble swallowing and sucking from a straw. Two days ago, my mom and family made the decision to let Nonni go home to her place and bring hospice to her.

Nonni was discharged from the hospital Tuesday. The hospital set up home hospice care. Nonni seems more relaxed at home and will be kept comfortable. There is a nurse and my mom, uncle, and/or I are with her at all times. She is DNR and has multiple medical difficulties. While she is still breathing and holding a pulse, she is starting to slip away slowly.

On Tuesday evening, my mom, the hospice nurse, and I had a discussion about how/what increasing difficulty to live would look like. The nurse said that everyone is different but described some symptoms. The leading thought into this question occurred when I read that Nonni had a majority of the characteristics/symptoms of the phase “near death.” This, initially, scared me. But as Tuesday went on, I figured out something.

Nonni’s body is barely hanging on. Her kidneys are starting to shut down, her digestive system is not digesting much now, and her swallowing/sucking abilities are lessening. She is not eating enough to sustain life. She is just so weak and frail. My mom reminded me that her body has been through so much and she deserves to be without pain. Hospice care will keep her comfortable but will not be using extraordinary measures to keep her alive.

While discharging from the hospital Tuesday, Nonni’s nurse said something that made sense to me. She hugged me goodbye, let me cry on her shoulder, and said “it won’t be long now.” While walking through the doors of the Cardiac ICU, it hit me. We are, essentially, keeping her comfortable, and letting her die, at home, when it’s her time. We would not be back on the Cardiac ICU floor again. Her doctors and nurses wanted her home and comfortable for her last few days.

While there is no specific timeline as to when Nonni may pass, it is evident that it’ll be soon. My days are now filled with keeping an eye on Nonni and talking to her. I continue to look up to her and she is one strong woman.

Please continue to pray that Nonni is comfortable and her pain is manageable. We do have some basic medications and wonderful pain medication for her. My family and I covet your prayers as we face grief and sadness.

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