Categories: Caregiving Moments

TL staff recently had the privilege to hear from the husband of a hospice patient we served a few years ago. Many thanks to Don W. for his kind words and continued support.

In a venue such as this, two questions often come to mind regarding the speaker:

Don served at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for two years toward the end of the Vietnam War. Here he stands in Transitions LifeCare’s Veterans Garden.


    1. WHO ARE YOU?

I am a man with a passion for God and compassion for people.

“COMpassion” is taking the first three letters of the word communicate and adding them to the word passion.

That’s what Transitions LifeCare is all about: providing compassionate, end-of-life care for patients and support for patients’ loved ones.

Don spent much time in the Hospice Home’s room B1, where Nancy lived at the end of her life.

This year, 2018, is the fifth anniversary of the passing of my wife, Nancy, on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm in Room B1 in the Hospice Home. Her passing was the culmination of a year-long battle with ALS.

Her ALS journey began in June 2012. Her progression was one of the fastest ever seen by all involved. She received treatment from the famous Dr. Bedlack at the Duke ALS Clinic with full support of Jerry Dawson’s ALS Association – North Carolina Chapter.

As Nancy’s progression intensified, Dr. Bedlack referred us to Hospice of Wake County. Nancy’s desire and that of our family was to utilize in-home care as long as was humanly possible.

We went through the qualifying and learning process as to what hospice care is and is not. The usual team was formed: case manager, social worker, chaplain, and case nurse.

Part-time caregivers were hired to assist based on a limited budget. However, I was the full-time, 24-hour-a-day, on-call caregiver.

Following the retirement of our first hospice nurse, our second assigned nurse was the “total package.”  She had the nursing skills and well as the nurturing persona that Nancy and our family so desperately needed.

Patients, customers, spouses, children, family, friends do not care how much we know about anything, until they first know how much we care about them. This nurse showed she really cared. As an example, near the end, we needed a lot of special wipes usually supplied by the nurse. On one occasion, she was completely out of the stock she normally carried in the trunk of her vehicle. Being the PERSON OF EXCELLENCE she was, she committed to having the needed wipes to us before the sun went down.

We had the wipes as the sun was going down.

[Note: Don has kept one of the packages of those wipes in honor of the nurse’s outstanding commitment to excellence and as a testimony of the sacred and vital mission of hospice.]

As Nancy was nearing the end, we were in pain management mode. At 3 a.m. on July 14, 2013, an on-call nurse was sitting at my kitchen table writing out an increased morphine schedule that I was expected to administer.  I told her I could not do it because I was so exhausted and burned out from ongoing 24-hour caregiving.  She said, “you have to.”  I PASSED OUT IN FRONT OF HER.  When I came to after an unknown time interval, she said the transport will be here at noon to take Nancy to the Hospice Home.

Brick in memory of Nancy W., located in Transitions LifeCare’s Colonnade and Memory Garden.

From Monday, July 14 to Friday, July 19, I saw first-hand what hospice care is really all about. The care provided to Nancy, me, family, and friends was outstanding.

In the early morning hours of July 16, I was sitting alone in one of the small meeting rooms near the nurses’ station.  A nurse came by and asked me, “Mr. W., are you OK?”  I then told her that “you hospice nurses are a special breed.”  I WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT SHE SAID. SHE SAID, “WE ARE HERE BECAUSE WE WANT TO BE. THIS IS A CALLING, NOT JUST A JOB.”

Over the past five years, this is how I’ve chosen to show appreciation for the end-of-life care provided to Nancy and our family:

  • Memorial brick in the brickyard where I often release heart-shaped balloons on special occasions
  • Designated tree behind new addition [of Hospice Home] with sign honoring Nancy’s memory based on a donation made three years ago
  • Flowers at the nurses’ station on special occasions
  • Deli trays at the nurses’ station and family kitchen on holidays and special occasions
  • Participation in North State Bank’s Summer Salute fundraiser and days of care donation
  • Commitment to donate $1,000 annually for 10 years
  • Inclusion of Transitions LifeCare in my estate plan currently being updated
  • Commitment to Transitions LifeCare public relations and fundraising efforts as a case history supporter
Don acknowledges grief never ends, it just changes over time. He has visited the Raleigh campus many times since the passing of his wife, to bring food to staff, to release balloons, to share flowers with nurses. Here, Don joined staff on a recent Food Truck Friday.

People from all over our nation are moving into the Triangle and surrounding areas each day. They need or will need the compassionate end-of-life care provided by Transitions LifeCare.  So, I say to you: “On behalf of a grateful community and nation, thank you for your service.”

–Don W., husband of TL hospice patient

ALS, caregiver, compassion, hospice, hospice home, nurse
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