Wednesday, January 20, 2010

paying respect

Day after day, census after census, visit after visit, room after room. My feet are dragging. And then I step into someone's life or someone's death and realize that this experience is momentous and unforgettable and fresh for them.  They are not just another name on a list, but a full story, a valued and loved human being.

I am astounded by the level of respect and dignity that is practiced in every hall in this hospital.

I stood in an ICU doorway and watched a nurse working with an unconscious patient.  She talked to him in a soft, confident tone.  "Mr. Jones, I am going to have to take a little blood.  I'm going to try to get it from your vein right here.  It will only sting for one second....There we go, good job."  Mr. Jones never blinked or winced or moved.  But it was obvious that she was aware of him as a person.

I shadowed my supervisor on several visits.  In two rooms the patients were unresponsive.  In both rooms he walked over to the patient first, touched them, introduced himself and called them by name before turning to talk to the families.  When the families wanted prayer, he went back to the bed and included the patients in the prayer time.

Our hospice house has the most beautiful tradition of honor.  When patients come in they are told "you will not be slipped out the back door.  When you die you will go out the same door you came in."  After a patient has died, their family chooses a song that represents them - Country, Gospel, Opera, whatever.  A special hospice quilt is placed over the patient.  A single rose lays on their chest. As the patient's song fills the air, all employees and any available guests stand in the great room and form a path that the patient is wheeled through right to the front door.  I am moved every time I am a part of it. 

Honor, dignity, value, respect.  Because you are a human being.  A child of God.  A gift.  And I am too.

For I am the Lord, your God, are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  Isaiah 43:3-5 NLT

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