Somewhere over the rainbow.

Last year my father got very ill. He had COVID and statistically he had every reason to die. As a family, we decided that we would not take him to hospital, even though I know we should have. If he were to die, we did not want him to die alone in an institution.

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Something in me changed during that time., I am now passionate about the fact that no one, unless absolutely necessary, should have their last hours on earth in a hospital.

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Recently we had a call about a woman who was in ICU and approaching the end of her life. I went to visit her in hospital. She looked like a tiny, frail little bird. Her eyes were wide open and alert, but due to the tracheotomy, she no longer spoke. She was on oxygen, had a vacuum dressing attached to her arm, was fed through a PEG into her stomach and phlegm had to be suctioned out of her every few hours.

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The family had been trying to get her out of the hospital bed where she had been imprisoned for the past three months. However, the sub-acutes and other step downs said that they could not accommodate her, yet her medical condition would not allow her to be treated at home. I am not sure why the sub-actutes would not take her, but it seemed there was no space for someone with almost no chance of survival.

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We had to make a decision. Should we take her or not? I really loved her the moment I saw her. I wanted to take her. I knew we could give her the necessary dignity and comfort, while also helping her family, who at that stage, were already at the end of their tether with their lives regulated by the hospital’s visiting hours. They felt that our setting was just what she needed.

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Within a few hours we organised a team who would surround her, an amazing, passionate physio, two palliative sisters and our wonderful resident doctor. My carers and I went to her hospital again, met with her nurses and doctors and did a hand-over . We were as ready as we were ever going to be.

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We welcomed her as she arrived in the ambulance. The moment her stretcher was pushed past the pool and her face felt the sun for the first time in months, I knew it was worth it. Even if she just survived one day with us, that moment of absolute joy was worth it. I loved it, her two granddaughters and her daughter saw it. I knew this is what was needed.

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We settled her in, turned her around in her lazyboy so she could see the pool and the garden and got her favourite music playing. My staff loved her and we loved her family. (My two single staff members especially loved the beautiful blonde granddaughters who would come and do karaoke for her!)

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After fourteen days, she died, peacefully, with her daughter at her side. She was loved, dignified and for her loved ones, the memories of her last days will be filled with joy and not sorrow and regret.

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