The final step
The last few years I've been working at a rehabilitation centre with people who come out of hospitals or nursing homes and want to live at home. Sometimes there is a chance they will be fully functional again despite their handicap and sometimes they just go home to be with their loved ones. During the day they spend their hours with me. Getting physical therapy, drinking coffee, talk, and having fun as much as possible. It's my job and I love it. A job that for most who work with us is just a job. They do what they have to do. No more, no less and it stops when people are going home after a day in the rehabilitation centre. Then it's someone else's responsibility. No matter what. But sometimes I feel the need to take it just one step further.
With a somehow sad face I looked at the woman who sat by the table. She became more and more confused lately. With her battered face she was looked at with horror by other patients. Scarves showed what operations she had to go through the last few years. Before last month she was talking out loud and there was a big smile on her face. She was talking about getting better, full of hope.
I walked back into the office and picked up the phone. Still thinking about what to say and how to say it, I dialed the numbers one by one. I had to after the conversation I had with the doctor about my concerns and about what I'd noticed the last two weeks. I had to call her husband and ask him. While I did that I saw the sturdy, acting tough man I met a few months ago. Normally the doctor would call the family himself because he had found out that her cancer was back after he had been talking with her doctor at the hospital, but knowing that guy with his blunt technical remarks, I asked him if I could make the phone call.
After being redirected because he was on the road I heard his voice at the other end of the line. When I said my name I heard a deep sigh. "I knew you were going to call me. You know don't you?" and for a moment there was silence. With the chart of his wife before me, I started my side of the story. Not as the nurse, no technicalities, but just like I would do if it was somebody who was close to me. I talked about what I was seeing, her getting worse and about my worries for the situation at home. How he was handling things. How he was coping. I talked about what I wanted to do for him to make it easier at home for the both of them.
I couldn't make it easier than it was. Talked about my feelings on this and listened at what he wanted to say. I heard another deep sigh, followed by a gasp. He knew and in between the waterfall of his tears, his fears, his doubts, feelings of despair and helplessness came out. Knowing what was going to happen, knowing he was going to lose someone. He was letting everything out what he couldn't do before, didn't want to do with his wife near him. He just wanted her to know he was strong enough to handle everything, even though he wasn't. And their children were too little to understand the feelings he was coping with, knowing they would lose their mother and that their lives were going to be different, once it happened.
After almost fifty minutes I put the phone down. He promised to call me again the next Thursday. Just to talk when he had set his mind straight and then we made arrangements. Making the final steps for them together.
Two months after she died, I met the husband with his children in town. We started talking about what had happened. About the arrangements I made for them to be able to say goodbye to her in their own home. Calling the healthcare centre to make it possible for her to die at home, and call for help for him and his children to take care of them too. I called the medical insurance company to help him sort out the papers and the bills. Things I normally did not have to do, but made it able for him to cope for them all together and he thanked me.
After saying bye to them three, I looked back and saw them taking a next step. Following the road in front of them continuing their new lives.