I ain’t dead — yet.
Sure, I’m dying. But aren’t we all? As Bob Dylan says, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Or as David Fitzsimmons of the Star says, “Mortality sucks.” And sure, I entered hospice care recently. But I hope you won’t be reading my obituary right away.
The thing is, I have a problem with hospitals. Often, when I go to one of them, I end up with something much worse than what I had when I went there.
Example No. 1: Last October, I went to the hospital with a broken ankle. I was supposed to only be there overnight, until I could be treated by an orthopedic surgeon. But in that space of time, I came down with pneumonia, which required a month of antibiotic infusions in a skilled nursing facility.
Example No. 2: A year ago, I went to the hospital with a possible congestive heart failure — serious enough in its own right. But within a day or two, I had picked up a major case of pneumonia with MRSA complication, which nearly killed me. That required two months of treatment in a care center.
Example No. 3: Five years ago, I had heart surgery — very serious. And I was doing fine and was supposed to go home after a week. But then the doctors discovered that my old friend, pneumonia, had taken up residence in my lungs. And that led to further complications and an extra month in the hospital.
Granted, I’m not an innocent bystander in all this. My roughly 40 years of smoking have made me susceptible to disease. But after six bouts of pneumonia, my lungs are pretty much ruined.
So I’ve gone into home hospice care to stay away from those germy hospitals. While I still have some lung function left, I want to stay at home, with a nurse stopping by regularly. Hospice is actually a survival technique for me.
My daughter, Christina Walker Rowden, is the volunteer coordinator for Hospice Family Care, my hospice agency. In response to my many well-wishers on social media — some of whom were saddened by the news that I was in hospice care — Christina has come up with the “Top 5 Reasons Not to be Sad that my Dad is on Hospice.” Here we go:
1) He’s not sad about it. While he is not happy about having the conditions that mean he qualifies for it, he’s actually quite glad to be on hospice, because of the next few reasons.
2) For the first time in quite a while, he stayed out of the hospital after contracting a serious cold. By consulting with his hospice nurse on his symptoms and possible treatments, they took care of that sucker without delay.
3) He’s still doing the things he enjoys (like writing, eating out, watching movies with my Mom), but with the added benefit of attention from a team whose job is to make sure his concerns are addressed, with him guiding his own care.
4) His family has support, too. At any time of day or night, he and my Mom can call for help or to ask questions. And I can be at work, or in my home 45 minutes away, and rest assured that his care team is looking out for them when I can’t be there.
5) He is really smart. He has paid for this Medicare benefit his whole working life, and is now utilizing it sooner, rather than later, when it will really help him enjoy his life and live it the way he wants to.