Dreams that Last
When I tell people I’m a hospice social worker, I am usually met with a pained expression and a question like “Isn’t that depressing?” People are so surprised when I tell them I don’t find it depressing, and they often tell me, “Oh, I could never do that!”
But it’s true. You see, being a hospice social worker is more about life than it is about death. Whenever I meet a new patient, I am thinking of ways to enhance the quality of the time they have left.
Recently I had the privilege of helping arrange a dream getaway for one of my patients, Mike, age 59. He and his beautiful wife, Susan, are true soul mates. They adore each other and were looking forward to celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary on April 4th. But Mike has neuroendocrine cancer, and as his disease progressed it became clear that they shouldn’t wait.
Susan is a very savvy internet surfer, and ran across the Dream Foundation online. They make last wishes come true for adults with a life-threatening illness, much like the Make-a-Wish Foundation does for children. Mike and Susan really wanted to spend a few days in Galveston. Usually it takes weeks to months to arrange a dream, but Susan found out that they can do an “emergency dream” if a person’s life expectancy is less than 2 months. She told me about it and we were on it! I was able to get the paperwork completed quickly, thanks to the rapid response time of our hospice physician, Dr. Joseph Roosth. Within just a few days, their dream was approved!
In one of my conversations with the Dream Foundation representative, I asked why they request a photo of the patient. She poignantly said that they like to be able to connect with the people they are helping so that it is more personal for them and for the staff at Dream Foundation. When they heard Mike’s story and wish to go to Galveston, their dream-makers went to work!
The Saturday before they were to leave, a local Dream Foundation volunteer hand-delivered a “Dream Box” to the Mule home, which contained t-shirts, hats, the itinerary for their trip, and a check for meals and expenses.
Our hospice nurse, Cheryl Bridgens, made sure they had all the medications, supplies, and portable oxygen concentrator that they would need on their trip. She did a final visit on Monday before they left and even offered to make a visit in Galveston if he needed it during the trip. (I think she had her bathing suit ready just in case!) And our hospice aide Ebony Thomas did a last-minute visit that morning to send him off with a fresh shower and shave.
They were picked up by a driver in a Lincoln Town Car and driven in style to the Tremont House Hotel in Galveston. For the next 3 days, they enjoyed fine meals, time away, and each other’s company. To top it all off, each night the Dream Foundation surprised them with goodies: champagne, desserts and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
One of the highlights of their trip was touring the Galveston Railroad Museum. Mike is a train aficionado and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the exhibit. Susan took the opportunity on that perfect day to capture Mike on film. Take a minute to watch his message. It is one of hope, courage and love.
It was such a blessing to even play a small role in making this dream come true. Somehow, I don’t find this depressing.
And what do you do for a living?
-Henry David Thoreau
-Barbara De Angelis