Daily Archives: October 24, 2011

A Gift

Our modern world has been progressively distanced from the messier aspects of life. Birth is too often something that happens “somewhere else” and until recently babies “born” on television were produced all smiles and sparkles. Death is even more sanitized.
Sure, we see Hollywood deaths, with a suitable amount of blood and gore scattered around. We glance at horrific photos from war venues while scrolling through the internet or perhaps reading a news magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Awful, we think. So sad. But when it comes to deaths directly related to us, we generally see only the sanitized version. Unless someone is found dead in bed, many die in some facility, and we see them all cleaned up for their final journey.
Where am I going with this? As you’ve possibly read, in May my husband turned bright yellow, and was admitted to the hospital for tests. He had Whipple surgery in June for a tumor on his bile duct. The Whipple procedure is for those who have cancer in or around the pancreas and too often they don’t know until the cancer has progressed beyond help. In that, we were lucky. The luck didn’t hold throughout all of his far too long hospital stay. Last week his doctors did me the great favor of being totally honest with us. He simply was not getting better. His surgery had healed beautifully, but his body could not process the liquid food going through a tube directly into his stomach, and he had trouble swallowing cleanly, so that there was a constant risk of pneumonia. We had to consider Hospice care for the final destination on his life’s journey.
He asked if he could go home, and they told him I couldn’t handle his care. Being me, I had to ask why not. Hospice supports home care. It would be a matter of keeping him clean, and giving him this final expression of our love, to be able to look out the window at the home we had bought for our retirement. If we had two days it would be wonderful. Two weeks would be a gift. I wouldn’t think beyond that.
On Friday they set up a hospital bed in the middle of our living room, and I surrounded it with portable dog pens. On Saturday they delivered my husband into my care. In studying up on malabsorption, a common after effect of the Whipple, the most frequent advice is to feed small meals every couple of hours, and to avoid processed foods and wheat. I had baked a chicken, and had some other plain but healthy fare for him. A friend had brought over egg custard, and we always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.
I started with half a grilled cheese sandwich (won’t mention the wheat restriction until I can find bread in other grains). Then chilled pineapple chunks. Then slices of chicken and avocado. Gulp. Gone. On with the egg custard, some berries, string cheese, peach slices. Gulp. Gone. Efficiently processed by the digestive system the hospital had wanted to give up on.
Right now I’m working on a sugarless, crustless sweet potato pie with an oat crumble topping. We’ll probably have fish and asparagus for dinner. The proof of processing might be considered a mixed blessing by some but for me it is another gift.
We’re not guaranteed total healing but that path is so much more clear than it was last Wednesday when we agreed to hospice care. He has at least the hope of a life beyond hospital walls. If it turns out he has reached the final destination in his life’s journey, it will be in a messy room, in front of a picture window, surrounded by love

after he was home two days

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