When Sharon White was in Altru Hospital in February 2011, she would click her heels together and say, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” She was channeling Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” She wanted to go home.
Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, Sharon had been in and out of the hospital as her care team worked to keep her healthy. “When they told me there wasn’t any more they could do for me in the hospital that they couldn’t do for me at home, I told them that’s where I wanted to be,” she said. Sharon’s COPD had turned terminal.
Sharon and her husband of 48 years, Johnny, decided home was the best place to spend the rest of her days. Under the care of Altru’s Hospice, Sharon receives comfort care and is able to live each day as it comes. “There’s not a strict regimen of when I can take medication,” she said. “There’s no one to push me to do things, but they’re always there if I need them.”
As the holidays approached that year, Sharon and Johnny started thinking about their family. They’d spend Christmas at home in St. Thomas, N.D., with their two grandchildren, Jayme and Ashley. Their son, Robert, lived in North Carolina. Deon, Sharon and Johnny’s other son, had passed away from cancer almost 10 years ago.
During a home visit, a nurse mentioned Sentimental Journey, a program developed by Hospice to provide patients with one last special wish for themselves or an experience with their family. The goal is to take the focus off the illness and dying process while giving the family a final happy memory with their loved one.
“I mentioned it would be terrific if Robert could come home for Christmas, but I just didn’t see how it was possible,” said Sharon.
In early December 2011, Johnny was working hard to get their house tidied up. He made sure Sharon had her hair done and there was someone to stay with her while he ran out.
“I asked where he was going, and he told me he was going to pick up Robert from the airport,” said Sharon. “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never been so taken back in all my life. No one has ever done something like this for me.”
With Robert home for a four-day visit, Sharon said her heart was filled with joy.
One Day at a Time
Sharon continues to take each day as it comes. “Each day and night that goes by is one more that I have,” she said. “Some nights I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid I won’t wake up. It’s not that I don’t want to live; I want to live very badly. I just don’t want people to see me suffer.”
Sharon fills her days doing small things around the house with Johnny. She enjoys visits from friends. She’s forever grateful to her Hospice caregivers from Altru and what they’ve allowed her to do during the end stage of her life.
“How do I thank so many people – my Hospice workers, the Sentimental Journey people – for all they’ve done for me and our family?” said Sharon. “They’re in my prayers every night.”
Have you or loved ones benefited from the care of Altru’s Hospice?
Sharon passed away February 3, 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.