The Nolans’ Hospice Story
This letter comes from Shane Nolan, whose wife, Ann, received care at the SECU Hospice House.
As a lung transplant patient with more than two wonderful postoperative years, Ann was shocked to receive a terminal diagnosis. Her body was rejecting her transplanted lungs, and she faced a frightening decline that ended with her death at the SECU Hospice House.
Before this, Ann and I were only vaguely aware of hospice. Truthfully, the word “hospice” to us sounded dark and foreboding. When the Duke Health palliative care team put us in the hands of hospice, we were filled with dread. How could we have failed at this transplant thing? How could we go from the curative “all things are possible” environment of Duke to something called hospice?
Home Hospice Nurses Brightened Our Lives
Eventually, we encountered our first home hospice nurse. Despite our misconceptions, this was really our first hint that we had not been abandoned. This was the beginning of a wonderful hospice experience.
Home hospice nurses came into our home like biblical angels whose only goal was comfort and care. As a caretaker, I no longer felt like I was on a runaway bus heading for the edge of the cliff. Hospice was here for us.
My wife quickly gained trust in her nurses. Ann was able to have those deeply personal end-of-life conversations with a trained professional who seemed able to read her mind. Ann was well prepared spiritually to die. Her daily conversations with God underpinned her view her life on earth was ending, and her new eternal life was about to begin. Ann’s only concerns were about how it would be when she died.
Hospice House Offered an Oasis
She had always said she did not want to die at home. She did not want the last memories of her to be in a hospital-style bed in the home. Ann had witnessed end-of-life ordeals for others and knew there was a better way. It was the SECU Hospice House—an oasis for us in the last mile of Ann’s health odyssey.
Staff Took Care of Both of Us
Arriving at the SECU Hospice House was like setting foot on an island where the natives seemed to provide for every need. Here in 18 rooms with end-of-life dramas playing out, something else very special was happening. Staff gave professional care with a level of love that would surprise even the most cynical.
Someone was always making sure I, the caretaker, was OK. From a warm cup of coffee to a warm hand on my shoulder, the staff and volunteers kept a vigil for both Ann and I as we neared the finish line.
One morning, as I sat by Ann’s bedside holding her hand, her heart stopped, and she started her new life in heaven. Her spiritual angels now took over her care from the earthly angels at the SECU Hospice House. The peaceful way she died was a gift that every individual can have if they consider hospice early in their journey toward the end of life.
Thank you to Dr. Dennis Koffer and the amazing nurses, staff, and volunteers at SECU Hospice House in Smithfield. You gently guided Ann and me through a beautiful experience. God bless you all.