Sunday, July 12, 2009

Living and Dying Strategies

Deborah Grassman is an angel.

She is also a Hospice nurse with the Department of Veterans Affairs at Bay Pines, FL VA Medical Center.

Seated beside me in the picture above are Judy Taylor and Jim Schaller. We were among Hospice workers, VA nurses, and Purple Heart veterans who attended an all day seminar by Mrs. Grassman. There were probably 60 people in the classroom at Williams Education and Counseling Center at 101 Hospice Lane in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Grassman conducted the workshop entitled "Caring for Veterans at End of Life". She told of her experiences while caring for veterans in a hospice setting for 25 years. She introduced the concept, strategies for living and dying. She explained that some people delay the dying process by allowing technology and drugs to keep themself alive a few weeks or days more. We saw a video of one wife explaining how her dying husband suffered continued shocks from a heart defibrillator. The device was set to administer 3 shocks to a stopped heart. As her husband passed from life to death, the defibrillator delivered 33 painful shocks. It actually burned through his flesh. There were no instructions on how to stop the device. This painful death is forever etched in the tearful wife's memory.

Grassman put forth 7 tasks of living and dying. Ideally, the end of life process should include these steps during final visits by family, friends, and acquaintances:

Forgive me.

I forgive you.

I love you.

Thank you.

Good bye.

Let go.

Open up.

These ideals apply to all people, not just veterans. Grassman explained in detail each step and cited experiences with dying veterans to support each one.

The audience was brought to tears several times with stories of men and women, young and old, moving through that inevitable journey from life to death.

Toward the end of the day long seminar, Grassman asked the veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized. Then, as a PowerPoint presentation showed patriotic images and played similar music, she pinned onto our shirt a special memento followed by a hug. When she embraced me and whispered words, I felt as though I'd been - touched by an angel.

Have a good week!


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