Vic succeeded at life…


Vic often said “I must be such a disappointment to you.  I have done nothing with my life!”

This morning I read these beautiful words and so wished I could have shared it with Vic.

“This is to have succeeded” posted on June 4, 2013 by Dr Bill http://drbillwooten.com/2013/06/04/this-is-to-have-succeeded

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Bessie Anderson Stanley

To laugh often and love much – That Vic did.  She always had a smile on her precious face.  Even when she was in dreadful pain she would try to smile.  When she was in a lot of pain her laugh was shrill.  Pain seldom stopped her from laughing… In 2007 I said to Vic that my life was sad.

“That is terrible Mommy.  Why?”

I felt like hitting my head against a wall!  What did the child think?  In 2007 Vic must have had 18 operations; developed every hospital superbug in the book; developed septicaemia, had a high output fistula; developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome; spend months in ICU and survived having the ventilator turned off… Vic was op TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) for months…she had a massive open wound that we could not keep covered with a colostomy bag.  It was too big and positioned very low down.

“I worry about you every second of the day baby.  I worry whether you have vomited and how much you vomited; I worry whether you have been able to eat anything…  I worry about your wound.  I worry about your pain control….”

“Mommy, that is so sad.  At least once a week the boys and I laugh so much that my tummy hurts from it…”

so sick

Vic in 2007

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Vic loved unconditionally and with every fibre of her body.  She gave everything!  She was a wonderful daughter, mother, friend…She loved her family, her siblings, her friends and her boys.  She LIVED love.

Her last words ever were “I love you Mommy”

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… to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;  Worldwide, intelligent people, respected and admired Vic for her courage, tenacity…  We called Vic the “baby whisperer”.  Children loved her.  She loved children.  Her only ambition as a toddler and teenager was to be a Mommy.  She loved her sons beyond comprehension…

The Baby Whisperer

…… to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; Vic suffered a lot of betrayal in her little life.  People got tired of waiting for her to die.  “Friends” spoke about her “addiction” to pain medication behind her back… They used her illness as a weapon against her when she was at her most vulnerable.  False friends (and loved ones) spoke their “minds” and condemned and judged Vic for choices she made… Because she was ill people thought they could say what they wanted, when they wanted.

….. to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;  My precious child was so naïve.  She refused to see the bad in people!  The only time she got irritated and miserable was in hospital.  She always found the good in people.  She did not speak badly of people.  When I was angry with someone she would placate me…point out their good points… She knew that if she voiced her own anger it would have driven me over the edge.  Vic taught me unconditional love, forgiveness and tolerance.  Vic brought out the best in me and the most other people.

…..to give of one’s self; Vic was a people pleaser.  She would turn down MY bed!!!!  She made sacrifices for each and every person in her life.  Even in death she worried about other dying people who were less privileged than she was.  I promised her at 2 am on the 16th of November 2012, a mere 2 months and 2 days before she died, that I would start Stepping Stone Hospice!  She kept talking to me about Stepping Stone until she lapsed into a coma.  We started on the 1st of January 2013 and Vic died on the 18th of January.  Our first patient.  Our first death.

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…..to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; Vic left the world a better place.  Her sons are monuments of the person she was; her dream of a Hospice has been realized.

Vic’s monuments…

……to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;  With the 2010 Soccer World Cup Vic went crazy with enthusiasm; she bought every gimmick that hit the shops; she went of the “soccer train” in her wheelchair, she watched every single soccer game.

 

Vic loving World Cup 2010

……to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived     Vic’s legacy will live on through her sons and Stepping Stone Hospice.  Long after I have died, people will continue to benefit from Vic’s dreams and goodness.

—this is to have succeeded.”  My angel child – you succeeded!  You succeeded in life and with living.  You made the world a beautiful place filled with goodness and hope.  I am so proud of you.  You lived life to the full.  You made a difference!  You lived a greater and more successful life than most people.  You have put the world to shame.  You are my hero!

 

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/10/16/and-the-winner-is/

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/06/09/9-6-2012/

https://wordpress.com/post/36185300/3015/

http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/71/art%253A10.1186%252Fcc11867.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Flink.springer.com%2Farticle%2F10.1186%2Fcc11867&token2=exp=1461937379~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F71%2Fart%25253A10.1186%25252Fcc11867.pdf%3ForiginUrl%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Flink.springer.com%252Farticle%252F10.1186%252Fcc11867*~hmac=08ff3ff972d6f80826a88836b665cace297a3e6feae8c461089cc821104e11fb

http://www.anaesthesiauk.com/documents/ards.pdf

http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/nejm200005043421806

 

Watch “Samoan mother with brittle bone disease struggles to look after her baby” on YouTube


This video touched me so deeply at every level.

I was petrified of holding Vic as a baby.  I was even more petrified of anyone else holding my baby.   I had a strict “Look but don’t touch” policy.

“Don’t worry,” people said. “She won’t break.”

Vic’s first known fracture was at the age of 3 weeks.  She sucked her little thumb and fractured it…  By her 3rd birthday Vic had had 41 fractures.

Vic with her right leg in plaster-of-paris

As she grew older she became more careful.  Physiotherapy strengthened her muscle and the stronger muscles protected the bone… By the time she celebrated her 18th birthday, Vic believed that she was invincible.

At the tender age of 21 Vic got married.  When Colin proposed I cried and asked him whether he was aware what life with my OI child would mean…  Of course he did and despite my pleading and sermons about the danger of pregnancy, Vic fell pregnant 6 weeks after the wedding…

Vic embraced her pregnancy as she embraced life.  She survived the pregnancy and the birth.

Jared was six weeks old when Vic started battling to pick him up.  Her little wrists deteriorated to such an extent that she needed surgery to both wrists when he was 7 months old.

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Baby Jared stayed with us for a couple of week whilst Vic recovered.

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It was the first time in my life that I felt useless, hopeless and helpless.  I could do nothing for my child.  I had been relegated from being “the Mother” to being “the mother-in-law”.  My position in the family had changed forever.

When I watched this video I was catapulted back into Vic’s desperate attempt at living a full and normal life.

I remember my blind anger at Vic for falling pregnant…. Unknown number of fractures…Untold pain.

I remember Vicky believed that she was invincible…

I remember KNOWING that “Babies break bones…”

 

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850 days


It is a mere 850 days since Vic died.  2 years and 4 months seems so short… 850 days seems far more representative of the longing.  It seems “longer”….

I woke up this morning with tears pouring down my cheeks.  I so longed to hold my child.  I know that the boys remembered too.  Jon-Daniel posted on his Facebook “Appreciate your Mom, tell her you love her, make her smile – because the only time she ever smiled while you were crying was when you were born!”  The first to “like” his post was his brother.

I imagined that the longing would get better.  It doesn’t!

At first it felt as if I was overseas – away from the trauma of Vic being ill.  I always felt guilty at the “reprieves” I had when I was travelling for work.  Now I would give anything and everything for just an extra minute with my child.

It was hard standing next to Vic’s bed hearing her cries of pain.  It was even harder seeing the despair in the eyes of her precious boys when they stood next to their mom’s bed helpless to ease her pain and fears.

So often over the years I wanted to run away.  In the end, when Vic cried from fear of dying, I felt the need to put an end to her suffering well up in me.   I put my hands over my ears and screamed in my head.

Vic and her Dad
“Don’t leave me Daddy!  I am scared!”

How do you answer your child when she cries “I am so scared”?

We have a patient at Hospice who vocalises her fear the way Vic did.  Today I just held her.  How do you still the fear of the unknown in a dying person?  And NO!!!!  It has nothing to do with religion.  Everybody is scared.

From that dreaded moment when a patient is told they are terminally ill an avalanche of shock and fear hits them.  It is called actually “named” – terminal fear.  Vic (and Elizabeth*) fear dying, pain, saying goodbye, loss of control and mostly all-encompassing the fear of the unknown.

Vic’s overwhelming fear was that people would forget her – that she would be replaced….  Vic questioned her life’s worth.  She did not work and in her mind that meant it that she had not achieved anything.  That she would leave no legacy.  No matter how many times we reassured her that she inspired hundreds of people worldwide, the fear never left.  I hope that she now knows how powerful her legacy is!  That hundreds of patients have benefitted from her death wish and, most importantly, that her sons are her true legacy.

I have witnessed that grieving starts the moment of handing down the sentence.  It is a long and hard journey for the dying person, their loved ones and friends.

And, today that Elizabeth’s* fear rests heavy on my heart, I know that we will provide her a safe haven where she can relax into death.  We will hold her hand and guide her family through this dreadful trauma of saying goodbye to a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

I pray for wisdom and strength to handle the déjà vu of Elizabeth’s* final journey.

 

 

16 months of Hospice and two special angels in Heaven


In the early hours of my Dad’s 3rd anniversary I feel compelled to give some feedback on Stepping Stone Hospice.

Sixteen months ago, with unbelievable arrogance we started Stepping Stone Hospice. What a journey it has been. We started working from my home with a registered palliative care sister, a wheelchair and very little else.

Sixteen months later we have not only moved into a lovely building but we have increased our In-Patient-Unit for 4 beds, we employ 2 nurses, a staff nurse and a team of 13 palliative trained caseworkers. We have plans to extend the building so we can increase the In-Patient-Unit to 10 beds. Every piece of furniture and equipment was donated by the community and to date we have not asked anyone for a single cent. There have been months where we had to pay the nursing staff from our own pockets, but we have never turned away a patient.

We have received beautiful letters of gratitude, established a memorial rose garden and a reputation as a great Hospice.

I am in total awe of the phenomenal nursing staff who go beyond the call of duty. They will go and sit with a family and their dying loved one at 3am in the morning… On Saturdays and Sundays they interrupt their lives to care for the destitute dying in our community.

We have an amazing group of volunteer caregivers who sacrifice their time to guide the families through the final stages of their loved ones journeys. We cry with the families, hold their hands and sing for the dying.

I am so grateful for this amazing organisation and everyone who is involved with it. I am grateful that Vic’s legacy has made a difference to other end-stage Alzheimer patients. I remember my precious father who fought with every fibre of his body to hold onto his memories, his mind, his family….

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486 days…


486 days; 1 year, 4 months; 69 weeks….

Oh dear God, will this pain never stop? Will my heart ever heal? Will I ever be able to look at a photograph without tears welling up in my eyes? No matter where I am or who I am with – I miss my precious Angel Child.

I know your pain is over. Remember the night you crawled into bed with me and I told you that I looked forward to your pain being over? Did you know that night how many tears I would shed for you? Did you know that my life would change forever?

Yes, I know you did. Your words echo through my mind…”Mommy, I am so worried about you. How will you cope when I am gone?”

My stock standard reply was “I will cope baby. I will remember your pain and be glad that it is over”. How stupid of me.

As time goes by I forget how sick you were my precious little one.

Then I look through my photos. I see your pain. I see death in your beautiful eyes.

You knew how hard it would be. In your infinite wisdom you tried to prepare me. You tried to prepare the boys… Sweetie, nobody or nothing in the world could have prepared me for the pain, the loneliness, the void…

Sometimes I wonder how many days it will be until we meet again. I pray it is soon. This is just too hard.

How to die


People live as they die.

If they constantly worried about their health and each and every little pain and symptom in life, they will worry until the end. If people were unconcerned about their health in life they will be slack in seeking help and treatment. If they were bad-tempered and impatient in life, they will die impatient and bad-tempered. Gentle people die gentle deaths.  (I am excluding violent deaths from the statement above.)

In Hospice I am amazed to see with how much stoic dignity some people die. Many of my acquaintances have died in the past 14 months under our care. People that I knew were dignified, in life, died peaceful dignified deaths. Up to the end they will say “please” and “thank-you.” I have witnessed, and experienced people hold onto life with every fibre in their bodies (as did Vic). I have also seen people “decide” to die. We see it in their eyes. Death is a decision.

Dying is not a two-minute thing… some people die slowly over many days. In these slow, lingering days it is our job to keep the dying pain and symptom free. Comfortable surrounded by their loved ones.

In a perfect world people die at Hospices surrounded by their loved ones – in theory that works, only in theory.

Many people are dropped off at the In-Patient-Unit and as soon as it is “decent” the family will leave to rest… Some don’t return. Some do after many phone calls updating them of the gravity of their loved ones condition. Some will pop in for the final moments. Some don’t. Some stay. They enfold their loved one with compassion and love, complementing us in our job. Some people die with their loved ones united in prayer; others die with the family singing gentle songs. Some die telling their loved ones to f… off…..

I have come to the conclusion that people without a spiritual and/or religious base die bad deaths. They swear at their families and the world until their final day… They worry about their new cars; a business deal – some have alcohol sneaked into the IPU. They deliberately remove their diapers and urinate on the sheets; one even defecated on his sheets defiantly grinning at the staff. A final “f— you” act. No, he was fully conscious of his actions and the effect that it has on those caring for him. He was dying from cancer not Alzheimer’s.

Seeing someone die is quite amazing. It is a beautiful experience witnessing the soul leave the body. There can be no doubt that there is life hereafter.

A young woman died in the IPU. She lingered for 8 days. Finally only her mom was left next to her bed gently whispering words of love and encouragement. After she died we prepared her cancer ravished little body for collection by the undertakers. When they arrived I escorted them to her room. She lay there with an angelic smile on her face. I called her mom and said “you have to see this…” When her mom had left her side it was just a tiny little bag of bones that lay there. When her mom next saw her she had this peaceful, angelic smile on her face. Truly a message for heaven for her grief-stricken mother.

I hope that I will be stoic and brave in death. That fear of the “Great Beyond” will not overwhelm me. I hope that I will be dignified and brave in death. I am such a ninny in life.

Stepping Stone’s first death


Vic was the first Stepping Stone Hospice death.

I was clearing up some filing at the office when I came across Vic’s case notes. Tears ran down my cheeks when I read the observation of the Hospice nurse…

21.11.2012:-    Pt gradually getting weak but stable. Pain controlled and up and about

20.12.2012:-    Very weak but stable. Pain controlled

3.1.2013    Pt experiencing obstruction. Started on SD (Syringe Driver). Buscopan, Zantac, morphine over 24 hours. Prognosis short

8.1.2013    Pt seen by Dr Sue, very weak. Actively dying. Not eating or drinking. Vomiting much better. Pt still responsive even in deep sleep. Continue SD

11.1.2013    Pt terminally weak but stable on SD. Actively dying. Family up to speed with progress

18.1.2013    Pt R.I.P this am. Peaceful and comfortable at home

Vic’s suffering had been reduced to a couple of lines. A couple of words. No mention of her vomiting blood or did I forget to mention it to the nurse? No mention of her being unable to breathe because of the pain. “Pain controlled”…

The pain of Vic’s death is as fresh as it was a year, a month and 11 days ago.

We have now lived many Hospice deaths. Some have been friends, some strangers that became friends and some strangers that remained strangers. I feel the pain of the mothers whose daughters died in the In-Patient-Unit. I held them and comforted them, but I could not take their pain away. I tried to prepare them for the emptiness that would follow the funeral…the guilt, the anger, the loneliness.

I know that our Nursing Sisters are compassionate and caring. I know that I would want to die in the Unit. I know the staff will light candles to shield me from the harsh fluorescent light…. I hope that Lorraine Msini will softly sing Amazing Grace as I end my journey on earth. I have truly learnt that death is not the enemy. Living is.

I no longer cry for those who are dying. I cry for the ones who are left behind. I cry for the emptiness I have seen in mothers eyes… the raw, undiluted pain… I know that when I see them in a few months’ time they would have learnt to mask that raw, undiluted pain and emptiness in their eyes.

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In Memory of Vicky Bruce for my friend Tersia


“Hi my name is Shaun from Scotland.”

Shaun is an amazing man who lives in Scotland with his beautiful partner Dawn, two sons and two daughters.  Shaun suffers from Fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia robbed him from coaching soccer and his active life.  Shaun has suffered many losses but has grown in his pain to be an amazing blogger and friend.  In his own words ,”The pain took things and kept doing so. I decided to make the pain my friend and live and laugh.”

Shaun started following my blog on the 19th of January 2013.  How do I remember?  Shaun responded to my post https://tersiaburger.com/2013/01/25/vic-has-left-home-for-the-last-time/

I remember his words.  He said that he and his partner, Dawn,  sat and hugged for an hour crying for Vic…. Shaun reached out to me in the midst of my worse pain and never abandoned me.  Many people have grown tired of my tears and sorrow and moved on to other blogs.  Shawn has stayed.  He comments, consoles and encourages.

Shawn, Dawn and Dean (their son, made this beautiful picture and link in memory of Vic.

When I read his post tears just ran down my cheeks.  Tears missing my child that had such a profound effect on people all over the world mixed with tears of gratitude for friends who are not afraid to use my child’s name…  Thank you Shaun, Dawn and Dean for taking time out of your lives to remember and honour my precious child.

I cherish our friendship!

 

Rest in Peace Angel Child


Yesterday the sun set on our tears and longing. This morning I lay awake watching the sun send it first rays through the silhouette of the oak tree in our garden.

“Rays of hope” I thought.

I lay there, my eyes still heavy with tears and sleep thinking how grateful I am that my child’s suffering is over…

Yesterday was a day filled with selfish sadness. All I could think of was how much I miss Vic; how empty my life is; how much pain we are in… For one day I “forgot” her terrible suffering. Her tears of pain and frustration. This morning I thought back to Vic vomiting pure, bright red blood, crying “Mommy I broke another vertebrae”.

This morning I remembered that Vic had absolutely no quality of life. I remembered my fear that her suffering would never end… I remembered my prayers, pleading with God to end Vic’s suffering.  Alberton-20120114-00781  Image (178)

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So, today I will allow peace back into my heart. I will do my best to be a good back-up mommy to the boys. I will try to live with my pain. And when sadness threatens to overwhelm me I will force my mind back to Vic’s words “I can’t do this anymore”. I will remember the indignity that she lived; her tears…

I will remember my baby girl’s laugh; her beautiful eyes; the rich texture of her hair. I will honour her pure heart, compassion and goodness.

I will celebrate the fact that Vic is now free of pain, indignity and loneliness. I will visualize Vic running free in Heaven.

Rest in Peace my Angel Child. You are ALWAYS     in my heart.

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One year today


My precious child

Somehow 31,536,000 seconds or even 525,600 minutes makes far more sense than 8760 hours; 365 days; 52 weeks and one day or 1 year…

If feels as if a lifetime of sorrow has passed since you stopped breathing.  If feels as if it has been a lifetime since I held you in my arms.  It feels as if I have cried an ocean of tears.

In the past year I have aged.  I have gained weight. I have existed. A year ago my life ended.  The boys and I still burn candles for you.

I am still filled with rage.  I know you were born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta but doctor arrogance caused you so much pain, suffering and indignity.  I know that you would more than likely have died before me but perhaps with less suffering?

I will always miss you.  I will always remember your smile, your laugh, your bravery. I will never forget how you fought to live.

Today I want to thank you for my beautiful grandsons.  Thank you for remaining my little girl through-out your life.  Thank you for fighting for so long.  You were such a warrior!

I thank God that you came home to die.  I thank God that I had the privilege of caring for you.  I thank God that He entrusted me with something as pure and precious as you.

I am grateful that you are no longer fracturing vertebrae from vomiting.  As much as I miss your laugh I do not miss your pain filled tears.  I am grateful precious baby that your suffering is over.

I miss your company.  I miss our late night chats, drinking untold cups of tea/coffee.  I miss your text messages, your telephone calls, your shuffling footsteps down the passage…  the smell of smoke alerting me that you are awake and sitting on your step…

I miss the boys laughter.  I miss the joy that you brought into our lives.

We will continue to honour your memory – every day of our lives.  Your legacy will live on in each and every person that is allowed to live until they die with dignity.

I love you Angel Child with every fiber in my body.

Your Silent Dreams by April D. Parker
I held you as you were sleeping…
All the while I sat weeping….
Gazing at your beautiful features…
For you were one of God’s Creatures…

I loved you from the minute you existed to be…
Living inside me, Dreaming silently…
You were always a part of my life…
Even before you saw day-light…

Looking down at you, I kissed your warm little hand…
Knowing you had passed on to the Promised Land…
You, my sweet baby, are forever my Child…
The fact you were in my life makes it worth while…

Undeniably I have hope…
The thought of seeing you again allows my spirit to lift…
I thank God to have had what time I had with you…
Love and cherish you I shall always do…

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Setting Vic free 14.1.2013


I had stopped all visits. It was family time. Our little family united in the trauma of our loved one’s dying.

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The boys were back at school on the 9th of January. On Monday, the 14th of January, it was Jon-Daniel’s academic awards evening. Vic had so desperately wanted to attend. The Sunday evening she begged me to please promise her that she would attend. I promised her, knowing that it was a death-bed promise I would not be able to honour.

Sunday night, the 13th of January 2013, Vic gently slipped into a semi-coma. She was no longer conscious of what was happening to her and around her. She was only able to respond by blinking her eyes…

Monday morning Vic woke up….She was alert and asked to go to the toilet. She was unable to stand on her own and Primrose and I half-carried her… Her little body dumped it contents. Vic was petrified. She had not eaten since Christmas. I undressed my precious child and held her up in the shower. I washed her hair and her painfully thin little body. I was soaked but Vic was clean.

“Mommy I am dying… I don’t want to die. I am so scared.” Vic cried

“I know my angel. Mommy is here…”

“Mommy, I am so sore. Please can I have something for pain?”

“Angel, do you want the normal dose or the increased dosage that Sue prescribed?”

“The increased dosage Mommy…”

“Sweetie, you know that it will make you sleep…”

“I know Mommy. I cannot bear the pain anymore…”

“Must I keep you on the increased dosage angel?”

“Yes please Mommy….”

I drew up the syringes. It broke my heart trying to find a site to inject. Her little body was so bruised.

“Okay my angel. I am ready when you are” I said

Vic nodded. The tears brimming in her eyes. “I love you Mommy” she said

“I love you too – with all my heart” I said as I injected the medication into my precious child’s body.

Vic looked at me with so much love in her eyes. She knew that the sedation stage had started with the increased medication.

Vic had spoken her final words. Vic knew that the medication would take effect and that her voice was silenced. My precious baby girl was ready to take the hands of her angels that would accompany her on her final journey. She had fought her battle.

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“I love you Mommy were the last words Vic ever spoke.

SET YOU FREE

You’re hanging on as night turns to dawn

I know you can’t stay and soon you’ll be gone

we both know it’s hard to let go; wherever you are my love won’t be far

your smile, your touch, your voice, your face; your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free

There is no fear and your leaving is clear

we’ll still have our love it remains with each tear

I cry as you leave but I truly believe; as you leave my sight we’ll both be all right

your smile, your touch, your voice, your face; your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free

though you have flown to somewhere unknown

we’re never apart ’cause you’re here in my heart

 your smile, your touch, your voice, your face; your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free  http://myjourneysinsight.com/

These words belong to a dear WP friend, Judy Unger.

Textbook death 13.1.2013


I am cautiously optimistic that we have managed to stop the bleeding ulcer and that the new medicine regime has the vomiting under control.  Vic is still running a fever, her BP is dropping and her heart rate has stabilized in the 110’s.  She appears to be more stable than she has been in a couple of weeks.IMG_8501

This morning, after I washed her and changed her pyjamas she said “Mommy, I would like to go to the supermarket today…”

“Cool, what do you want to buy?”  I asked

“Tippex (correction liquid) for the boys and Stilpain and Syndol (Tablets)” she said.

“Okay….” I said

“But I think you will have to drive Mommy… I don’t think I should be driving!” Vic said

This incredible young woman just does not know how to die!  Vic had a good breakfast this morning.  Vic has not eaten since Christmas!

The boys are fleeing home.  Jon-Daniel has spent the past day and a half at Esther and Leon’s.  Jared went to his Dad’s.  I wish I too could flee.  For the first time in my life I have come to understand why families place their dying loved ones in hospital of in a Hospice In-Patient unit.  The waiting is gruelling and heart wrenching.  The rollercoaster of dying is horrific!

I previously researched the “length of dying”.

The Journey Begins: One to Three Months Prior to Death

As one begins to accept their mortality and realizes that death is approaching, they may begin to withdraw from their surroundings. They are beginning the process of separating from the world and those in it. They may decline visits from friends, neighbors, and even family members. When they do accept visitors, they may be difficult to interact with and care for. They are beginning to contemplate their life and revisit old memories. They may be evaluating how they lived their life and sorting through any regrets. They may also undertake the five tasks of dying.

#1: Ask For Forgiveness

           #2: Offer ForgivenessTask

           #3: Offer Heartfelt ThanksTask

           #4: Offer Sentiments of Love

           #5: Say Goodbye

The dying person may experience reduced appetite and weight loss as the body begins to slow down. The body doesn’t need the energy from food that it once did. The dying person may be sleeping more now and not engaging in activities they once enjoyed. They no longer need the nourishment from food they once did. The body does a wonderful thing during this time as altered body chemistry produces a mild sense of euphoria. They are neither hungry nor thirsty and are not suffering in any way by not eating. It is an expected part of the journey they have begun.

One to Two Weeks Prior to Death

Mental Changes

This is the time during the journey that one begins to sleep most of the time. Disorientation is common and altered senses of perception can be expected. One may experience delusions, such as fearing hidden enemies or feeling invincible.

The dying person may also experience hallucinations, sometimes seeing or speaking to people that aren’t there. Often times these are people that have already died. Some may see this as the veil being lifted between this life and the next. The person may pick at their sheets and clothing in a state of agitation. Movements and actions may seem aimless and make no sense to others. They are moving further away from life on this earth.

Physical Changes

The body is having a more difficult time maintaining itself. There are signs that the body may show during this time:

  • The body temperature lowers by a degree or more.
  • The blood pressure lowers.
  • The pulse becomes irregular and may slow down or speed up.
  • There is increased perspiration.
  • Skin color changes as circulation becomes diminished. This is often more noticeable in the lips and nail beds as they become pale and bluish.
  • Breathing changes occur, often becoming more rapid and labored. Congestion may also occur causing a rattling sound and cough.
  • Speaking decreases and eventually stops altogether.

Journey’s End: A Couple of Days to Hours Prior to Death

The person is moving closer towards death. There may be a surge of energy as they get nearer. They may want to get out of bed and talk to loved ones, or ask for food after days of no appetite. This surge of energy may be quite a bit less noticeable but is usually used as a dying person’s final physical expression before moving on.

The surge of energy is usually short, and the previous signs become more pronounced as death approaches. Breathing becomes more irregular and often slower. “Cheyne-Stokes”breathing, rapid breathes followed by periods of no breathing at all, may occur. Congestion in the airway can increase causing loud, rattled breathing.

Hands and feet may become blotchy and purplish (mottled). This mottling may slowly work its way up the arms and legs. Lips and nail beds are bluish or purple. The person usually becomes unresponsive and may have their eyes open or semi-open but not seeing their surroundings. It is widely believed that hearing is the last sense to go so it is recommended that loved ones sit with and talk to the dying during this time.

Eventually, breathing will cease altogether and the heart stops. Death has occurred. http://dying.about.com/od/thedyingprocess/a/process.htm

Vic has experienced severe delirium or rather terminal restlessness, which is apparently a fairly common symptom in many dying patients.

Some characteristics of delirium include:

  • Impaired level of consciousness with a reduced awareness of the surrounding environment
  • Impaired short-term memory and attention span
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations (believing and/or seeing things that are not real)
  • Uncharacteristic speech – may be really loud or soft, very rapid or slow
  • Fluctuating mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances – insomnia or reversed sleep cycle
  • Abnormal activity – body movements may be increase or decreased, very fast or slow

 

Terminal Restlessness

Terminal restlessness is a particularly distressing form of delirium that may occur in dying patients. It is characterized by anguish (spiritual, emotional, or physical),

restlessness, anxiety, agitation, and cognitive failure.

Terminal restlessness is so distressing because it has a direct negative impact on the dying process. We all want death to be a comfortable and peaceful experience, but if a patient is dying with terminal restlessness, her death can be anything but comfortable and peaceful. http://dying.about.com/od/symptommanagement/a/delirium.htm

Vic is on massive dosages of medication.  She is peaceful now.

On Monday, the 14th, Jon-Daniel will receive his school colours for academic achievements.  Vicky is determined to attend the ceremony.  We will find a way of getting her to the school to witness this achievement.  I believe it is the last goal she has.

Image
Vic and her pride and joy, Jon-Daniel 4.1.2013

So despite me saying that Vic does not know how to die she is actually having a textbook death…

“Promise me Mommy…..” 13.1.2013


ImageIt has been a long day.  Vic is in a drug induced sleep.  She looks so peaceful.  Vic is not anesthetized – she wakes when she is thirsty or in pain.  She has only urinated once in 24 hours.  Her end is near.

Vic is looking angelically beautiful.  Her skin is blemish free and almost transparent.  Her hair seems to have taken on a life of its own.  Her little hands look skeleton like.  Her body is wasting away and yet she remains as beautiful as ever!

I will not sleep tonight.  Many years ago I promised Vic that she would not die alone or in a hospital.  The time is near and I must honour this promise.

Earlier tonight she woke up and I wasn’t in her room.  She had a panic attack… Danie found her trying to walk down the passage.  She was holding onto the wall and tears were running down her cheeks.  “Mommy, I am scared…”

Something has started bleeding again.  Vic vomited and there are signs of old and new blood again.  “Look Mommy, my mouth is bleeding…” she said.

Vic is deadly pale and her body has involuntary “jerking” movements.   She is decidedly unstable.

“Mommy, you have to get me to the awards evening.  I don’t care how.  Promise me Mommy!!!”  She sobbed tonight.  Tomorrow I will speak to the school and make the arrangements.  It is not a wheelchair friendly school and Vic could never sit through a two-hour ceremony.  We will find a way.

We had a strangely “normal” day today.  Jared brought his gaming computer down from the study into my TV lounge.  It is something I don’t encourage because there are wires and cords all over and I HATE the untidiness of it.  Today I welcomed it.  We needed to be close to one another.  I swam twice and we ate spaghetti bolognaise.

The boys have fear in their eyes.  I have fear in my heart.

The hardest part of life


In my arms I held you tight
Through the hardest part of life
In my heart the memories clear
Of the greatest child I love so dear
I held you so close to my heart
Praying that we’ll never part
But angels came and took you away
And tears I shed for your everyday
Now a shining lit up star
My precious child watches from up far
And sees all the pain I’m going through                                                                      Know that you are forever in my heart

 

 

 

dead woman walking


My post of one year ago.  IMG_8510Reading through this post, retracing last year, I can only thank God my baby girl’s suffering is over.  Do I miss her?  With every fibre in my body.  At times I feel as if I am drowning in my grief.  At other times I am so grateful that my prayers were answered and that my little Angle now runs, free of pain, Last night I had a discussion with someone who Vic loves very dearly.  This friend of Vic has spent endless hours, days, weeks and months in hospital with Vic.  She is actually the only person that has truly travelled this horrific journey with us.  Vic has lived through many death sentences and reprieves.  Lee has been around for at least the past 7 years of Vic’s journey.  Lee has nursed Vic back to health many times and I know she cares deeply for her friend.

I discussed the various treatment options with her.  Do I insist on having a stent fitted or do I request feeding tubes?  Or do I go with Vic’s non-intervention wish?  But if I comply how do I bring calmness and peace in Vic’s life?  Vic is no exception to the rule…As Bella (the Minister) pointed out last night: even Jesus of NAZARETH feared death….Fearing death is as natural as breathing is to us.

Last night I decided no sedation.  If I allow sedation, which is against her wishes, I would silence Vic’s voice, her fears and her tears.

Dr Sue says the bleeding is from the abdomen.  Her Oesophagus, throat and mouth are covered in a mass of sores from all the vomiting.  Her breathing is shallow and her heart rate weak but very rapid.  Her blood pressure is dropping and her circulation is poor.  The liver is very enlarged.

We are past the point of no return.  Vicky is dying and only a miracle can save her.  There is no operation, no magic medication.  Nothing can save her.

Today I again witnessed her anguish and phenomenal will to live. 

I had a dream.  I saw Vic being escorted, in deadly silence, down a long dark passage.  Her family and friends were escorting her on her final walk into the chamber of death.  I clearly saw the fear in her eyes and I could feel her little body trembling with fear.  I heard a voice saying “Dead woman walking…”

I saw her walk into the Chamber of Death, being strapped down, and the needle being inserted into her little arm.  In my dream I was the head warden and my eyes were flitting between the clock and a telephone…Would there be another reprieve??

Then I woke.

It is so cruel.  For all of us.  Why do people linger?  Why don’t we all just go to sleep and never wake up?  Or die in a car accident?  Why this suffering???  I want to go to sleep and never wake up.  Life sucks!

Vic is on a mild sedation.  She is more calm and peaceful than she has been for a couple of weeks.  She woke up this evening and had dinner…half a hamburger!!  My little take-away queen!! She only vomited at 11.30 pm so she managed to actually keep down the food.  She has passed no urine today.

She sobbed when I told her the boys had covered their school books…”I want to do it for them!”  She wailed

“I have let down my boys.  I always cover their books…”

The boys were in her room when Vic said “Oh Jared, look!  Oupa Tienie is standing behind you…”  It really spooked the boys.  Tienie, Vic’s biological father, died on the 5th of November 1999…

Her angels have come to fetch her.

I wish Vic was married.  I wish her biological father was still alive!  I wish the decision was not mine!!!

Tomorrow I will ask that the sedation be increased.  I will silence my child’s sweet voice.  I will also silence her tears and fears.

“Dead woman walking…”