IS IT HOSPICE, OR A DEATH SENTENCE

It’s May 27, 2010, the day before my wife’s birthday. Another typical day (So I thought) when we regularly present ourselves before the Lord, read his word, and follow our daily routine of working on the crossword puzzle for that day. This routine is usually followed by a light breakfast, and a telephone conversation between my wife and her sister, currently residing in California. Upon terminating said conversation with her sister, my wife will then speak with her mom at length. These conversations are conducted twice a day… in the mornings and at night, prior to retiring for the day. I look forward to these interchanges between the two women that I love, beyond comprehension. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I deeply love my biological sister, and sisters in-law as a brother should. In this instance however, I’m referring to my mother in-law (mom) and my wife.

On this particular day, my mind is racing feverishly as I begin to plan for a lavish birthday celebration for my “Golden Heart.” I’m again referring to my wife, whom I view as an angel with a heart of gold. Those who have been privileged to have met her, can attest to the aforementioned. I want this to be as memorable a celebration can be. I realize that my bias is very obvious, but hey!, I’m talking about my “Baby”, so there!

That evening, I approach her and reveal my plans regarding her birthday. We discuss them at length, and begin to look forward to her big day. At around 10PM, my wife places a call to California, and after speaking with her sister, asks to speak with mom. As I listen, I can hear both sharing stories from the past and occasionally laughing as they reminisce about some past event. They say their goodbyes and as usual, I hear mom sending regards to me. I acknowledge her and upon terminating the conversation, we retire for the evening.

Approximately forty-five minutes later, we are awaken by a loud telephone ring. We both get up, wondering who would be calling at this hour. You have to remember one thing, our mom is one-hundred years, and nine months old. Every time the phone rings at a late hour, our thoughts go immediately to her. On this particular night, our worse fears became a reality, as my wife answered the phone. My sister in-law said in a very calmed voice, that she was following the Ambulance, and was en route to the ER, as mom had tripped and fallen. One can only imagine the shock at hearing these unwelcome words. For the most part, we remained somewhat calmed, as our sister assured us that mom seemed to be well and appeared calmed. She promised to call call us upon consulting with the attending ER doctor.

We began to pray earnestly hoping that all would be well with mom. As one can imagine, we could not sleep that night, and remained awake until about 5 am. At that hour, my sister-in-law called and told us that mom had been x-rayed, and the results revealed a broken femur. Now, put yourselves in our shoes for a moment, and try to visualize a person that age, falling, and breaking a femur. Not a pretty picture. Well, needless to say, we were in a state of shock. My wife cried, and I tried to reassure her, that God would look after mom. We made arrangements to travel to California the following day. Our family was instructed to maintain contact with us during our travel which would take approximately, eleven hours. In the interim, we were told that mom would be transferred to a hospice. The following day, we set out for California. Later on that day, we received a call, and were informed that mom had been taken to the aforementioned facility, that her room was very nice, and faced a beautiful patio. We were somewhat relieved, as we were not too familiar with hospice.

Upon our arrival, we greeted the family, and went directly to mom’s bedside. She gave us a cheery smile, and her usual motherly comments. After a while, I excused myself, and decided to explore this facility. The staff seemed nice, and very attentive. As I ventured further, I notice something strange. Patients were coming in and out on gurneys, like an assembly line. I spoke to one family member, whose wife had been removed from this place. He was crying, and stated that his wife had just passed away. Been the inquisitive type, I asked what had happened. He related how, and why she had died, and explained in detail, the purpose of hospice. I was in total shock. What in the world is mom doing here? I went back to the room, and explained what this place was for. We were shocked. We were under the impression, that our mother would be undergoing physical therapy at this place. Boy, were we wrong. During the ensuing days, mom would cry in pain, not because of the femur, but because of some other underlying condition. My wife had to be blunt with the staff, before they took any action in this regard. Quite few days later, we were told that mom did not need to be there, therefore was being transferred to a convalescent home.

During those few days, we spend with mom at the hospice, I met some fantastic families, whose loved ones were terminally ill. I was able to counsel some, and grieve along side of them. It was a very sad experience for me, but not a new one, as I have had some experience in counseling of the dying.

Well, the day arrived when mom would be transferred. I bid my goodbyes to those hurting families I had met, and followed the ambulance to the convalescent home. Mom was checked in, and we stayed with her until closing time. We got to spend some quality time with her, that day. We left her in good spirits, as she joked and laughed with us. We were satisfied, and prior to leaving, prayed with her, and told her that we would be back, bright and early, the next day.

That next day turned out to be the most horrifying day for us. When my wife arrived at mom’s room, she found her slumped over the railing, and appeared to be heavily sedated. When confronted, that staff denied having sedated her. In fact, they stated that their patients were never drugged. From that day on, it was nightmarish. Mom was never the same, the staff was not that attentive, and continued to deny ever drugging their patients, which to us was an outright lie. It was evident that they did, based on mom’s drugged state. Her condition deteriorated, and days later, she passed away.

Hospice is a place to make the last days of terminally ill patients, comfortable. I have met some wonderful people, who truly believe in hospice. They trust these facilities, and are thankful, that their loved ones who are terminally ill, will transition into the next life in peace. I don’t really care for these facilities. Mom was not in that category. She was alive and well. A few days before, we had left her in good spirits, as someone who had a zest for life. Sure, she was older, but she enjoyed life. Her mind was alert, as was her sense of humor. She always looked forward to the next day, and would wake up, ready to face the new dawn. She was very active, as she reads her Bible on a daily basis, prayed for many, mostly her family, and looked forward to spending the day, engrossed on her daily activities.

Did mom deserve to die, when she was not ready? Of course not! Did she deserve the treatment she received at that facility? Of course not! One thing I know for sure. She was sedated for no reason at all. She was alive when we last saw her, and I deeply believe that she was overdosed.

It has been five years, and I’m still upset. In fact, we continue to be upset. How in the world should we feel? We lost a dear mom, who loved us beyond belief. We loved her so much, and still love her memory. As a Christian, I do forgive these people, but there are questions that still need to be answered. This is how I feel. What’s your take on this?

Johnny (Parrilla) Velazquez, PhD

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Johnny (Parrilla) Velazquez, PhD

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