Our friend, Bobby Crone

Bobby CroneThere are some people who are just fixtures at Hospice of East Texas, and Bobby Crone is one of them.   You can find him at our offices most every day… and even on the days you don’t see him around, it’s most likely that he’s doing something, somewhere for Hospice.

Hospice has a yard service, but Bobby puts the finishing touches on their work to make sure the grounds and gardens around the Robert M. Rogers Hospice Center and HomePlace always look nice.  In the warmer months, Bobby is often at work just as the sun comes up, before it gets too hot.  No limb touches the ground for too long!

For several years, Bobby volunteered to lead the bereavement support group for people who had lost their spouses, a job that requires great compassion and attention.

Bobby makes regular rounds to the freezers in all the employee break rooms and office areas to keep them stocked with ice cream and frozen treats, such a nice touch that is so appreciated by our staff.

And for years and years, Bobby has volunteered to visit hospice patients in their homes.  His volunteer coordinator knows that she can count on Bobby for any assignment, anywhere.  He will go to homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities.   He is willing to help those patients and families who are difficult or who live in difficult circumstances.  It doesn’t matter.  Bobby knows what they are going through, because Hospice of East Texas cared for his beloved Martha in the final months of her life.  It’s because he had the same experience that Bobby now gives back to Hospice of East Texas.

We can’t imagine a day in the life of Hospice of East Texas without the presence of Bobby Crone.

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Old Faithful Watch Party

IMG_2472Mr. Billy Stanley is a retired engineer.  A smart and physically active man for most of his life, Mr. Stanley’s dementia has robbed him of many of his physical and mental capabilities; a hard thing for him and a hard thing for his wife to watch.

On a routine visit to Mr. Stanley in his nursing home room on a day that was a particularly hard day, Hospice of East Texas Chaplain, David Badders asked Mr. Stanley what he would like to do, anything he would like to do if only he could.  The answer was unexpected.  “I’d like to go see Old Faithful,” said Mr. Stanley.  “I always wanted to see that, and I never did.”

That’s the kind of statement that sets the Hospice of East Texas team into motion.  There’s something one of our patients wants.   What can we do to make it happen?

Chaplain David contacted Marleen Elkins, volunteer coordinator, and Dave Lemming, Mr. Stanley’s Hospice volunteer.  Dave did some research and found out that it was possible to watch the eruptions of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming via a live web cam set up by the geyser. Dave also figured out how to connect to the webcam with his computer and how to stream the footage onto the television in the nursing home’s living room.

Marleen called Colonial Lindale nursing home and proposed having an “Old Faithful Watch Party”.  The staff  was delighted!

On the appointed day, Dave arrived early to get all the technology set up, and when Mr. Stanley and his wife, Nelda, came into the room they were greeted by the site of Old Faithful in real time on the television.  Like the park visitors on the screen, waiting patiently all bundled up against the cold, the “Old Faithful Watch Party” in the nursing home gathered around to watch and wait.  Marleen shared a guide book she bought on a recent vacation with beautiful color photos of Old Faithful.

Then, something magical happened.  Mr. Stanley’s engineering mind kicked into high gear.  “What is the volume of water the geyser spouts?” he asked.  “How high does it go?”  “How often does it erupt?”  Engaged, happy, and animated, Mr. Stanley fired question after question, his eyes twinkling, and a smile on his face, as Marleen found the answers in the guide book.  Mrs. Stanley beamed at the sight of her husband, talkative and ‘on point’, the way he had once been.  Then, it was time.  Old Faithful erupted, just as it does every day, exactly on schedule, and the “Old Faithful Watch Party” was there to cheer this wonder of nature, so far away and yet right there in the living room of Colonial Lindale.

“What would you like to do?” Chaplain David had asked on a particularly hard day.  The Hospice of East Texas team took Mr. Billy Stanley to Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful just as he wished, creating a really good day and some special moments full of joy and wonder.

A Moment~Well~Taken

hospiceA5[1]As usual, I was on my way, to make my way through another busy day at work. The traffic was normal. The pressure I felt as I mentally ran down the list of my “to do’s” for the day was normal.  In fact, everything appeared to be fairly normal…until I happened to glance down and notice the time.  As the numbers registered on my brain, I realized that I was just a little early for a meeting.  And then it happened, for some inexplicable reason I pressed the brake pedal, turned on my turn signal and pulled into a parking lot.  I pass by this parking lot every day and hardly give it a second thought.  On this day, however, I found myself in it.  I came to a stop. I put the car in park. I turned off the radio, and I turned off the engine then I took a deep breath.

I lifted my eyes to look past the dash board and there it was, right in front of me… a beautiful morning sunrise.  The sky was spectacular!  Above the cars and trucks and SUVs and trailers and headlights and taillights… above the buildings and the billboards, the sun was rising in the east and gray clouds were floating by, changing shapes at the whim of the breeze that blew.  As they moved ever-so-slowly, the sun beyond seemed to squeeze its golden rays through the shadows.  The sun with all of its brightness and brilliance is a warm and welcomed friend, but, the clouds add something special to the canvas as well.  They add shape, shadow, depth and perspective.  The gray clouds of the morning, gently rolling past the rising sun, remind me of the mystery of life and the privilege of hope.

Oh… to pull over from time to time (especially during the busy holiday season) and shift into park, turn everything off just for a moment.  Then to lift up our eyes and see the wonder of what is more often than not, right in front of us.  There are thoughts to think, mysteries to contemplate and there is hope to embrace… just beyond the dash board and above the buildings and the billboards.

If you will take the time to pull over every now and then, you too may just find that it is… A Moment [well] Taken.

Later… Wes

Holiday Survival

Holiday Survival DSC_0195
By Wes M. Bynum

As we continue through the holiday season, I wanted to send you a little encouragement for making it through these days.  Our instinct tells us that after the death of a loved one these can be difficult days as we adjust to all the changes that have come to our lives.

The good news is you do not have to wait for a special day to arrive and then simply see how you will react.  You can make choices that can help soften the day and move you along in the grieving process.

As you continue through this special season of merriment and memories, consider the following:

  • Plan Ahead… be deliberate and proactive in how you want to live that day.
  • Set your own tone… no one else can know how you feel or what you need.
  • Be realistic… recognize your limitations.
  • Be open and honest with your emotions.
  • Allow others to grieve in their own way.
  • Expect the best!

Keep this in mind: Choices…Control…Confidence…Stability… With each choice we make, there comes a sense of control. With control, comes confidence.  Confidence leads to stability.

Remember the past, embrace the present, and in the words of Thoreau; “go confidently in the direction of your dreams. (Dare to) live the life you have imagined.”

Life.

The shadows lengthen.  The sun moves slowly, and steadily makes its journey to lands far away.  The orange red glow begins to melt into shadows and shades of grey.  A soft breeze is blowing and the leaves are dancing to its gentle rhythm.

Crape Myrtle flowers on campus July2,2012 006

Life

Somehow, in some way, and without clear definition, the light of day is no longer and the darkness of night is now.  Why did it have to come?

How did it get here?  How long will it last?  Does anybody notice?  What will happen next?  Some questions have logical, scientific, absolute answers.  Some questions defy our ability to come to any kind of answer at all.

Life

Darkness prevails. It is a time for contemplation and reflection.  Truth is hard to accept at times. At some point, thoughts and experiences become memories.  Tomorrow holds new hope.  Sleep deeply. Rest peacefully.  Dream sweetly…

 

Life

Now open your eyes!  Your heart is beating.  A sense of anticipation and excitement is in the air.  Light has returned.  Darkness has gone.  The sun is brilliant.  The sky is blue. The sweet fragrance of morning is carried along on the wings of the wind.  Soft, happy songs of busy birds gently touch the ear.  The soul of man rejoices.

By Wes Bynum

Down a Long Dirt Road…

Let’s call him Joe.  He had lived alone, very alone, for a long time.  His home, if you could call it that, was down a long, dirt road, down  a long dirt driveway, behind a gate he kept locked at all times. dirt road pic

Joe’s history of erratic behavior, his flashing anger and his unkempt ways had alienated his family long ago and had driven away anyone who tried to help.

When Joe was referred to hospice care, he was reluctant to accept the help, to say the least.  Literally no one had been near him or in his home for a very long time.  It took a while for the staff to earn his trust, to get him to unlock the gate so that they could drive to his house, to get him to agree to their help with his pain and symptoms.  Because they never knew what they might find at Joe’s, for their own safety the hospice staff always went in pairs, usually two nurses, sometimes a nurse and a chaplain, always one of them a male.  Very gradually, Joe softened a bit, and most of the time he was receptive and cooperative.  The staff knew that living alone like that wasn’t the best situation for Joe, but it was ok for now, the best anyone could do.

One day when nurses Alice and Brian arrived at Joe’s locked gate for their regularly scheduled visit, they honked the car horn as they always did, signaling their arrival so that  Joe would come down the drive and let them in.  No one came out of the house.  They honked again and then again, and finally Joe came onto the porch, keys to the gate in hand, but very unsteady on his feet.  He reached to steady himself, and then he fell.

Brian climbed the fence and ran to Joe, got him comfortable, then ran back to open the gate for Alice and the medicines and supplies they had in the car.  Joe was conscious, but suddenly he began to have a seizure, then another, then another.  Brian called the hospice office, reached Stacy, the chaplain, and asked him to get a doctor’s order and bring medicines that could stop the seizures. Recognizing that Joe could not stay alone any longer, Brian called for an ambulance to transport him to HomePlace, Hospice of East Texas’ in-patient facility.

Alice and Brian and Stacy stayed with Joe, administering the medicines Stacy brought, doing what they could to comfort and soothe him while they waited on the ambulance. It took a long time, because medical transport of a hospice patient is not an emergency.  Brian found Joe’s daughter’s phone number in his records and called her.  She came to his home, reluctantly. The hospice nurses were able to explain to her that her father had a brain tumor.  Maybe he had had it for a long time.  Maybe it might explain the violence and anger that had alienated him from everyone, even from those who loved him long ago.  Maybe.

Once at HomePlace, the staff bathed and shaved Joe and he was clean, for the first time in a long while.  They nestled him in a clean room, in clean pajamas, in a bed with clean sheets.  Though he never regained consciousness, Joe was quiet and comfortable, pain free and at peace. He passed away that night, and his daughter was by his side.

At Hospice of East Texas, one of our core beliefs is that every person deserves a peaceful, dignified death.  With your help, we give that gift to thousands of patients every year, to people in all kinds of circumstances, people whose Sunday dinner tables are filled with family, people with not one friend.  We give that gift to people who live in lavish homes and in travel trailers, to people who will not be remembered and people who will forever be mourned and missed.

With your help, Hospice of East Texas was able to give the gift of a peaceful, dignified death to Joe.  With your help, perhaps we also gave some closure and healing for his daughter.

Thank you.

“You know, we see this kind of thing more often than you would think,” said Chaplain Stacy.  “There are many people who are alone and alienated, by choice or by chance, and then they get sick on top of everything else.  As I like to say, ‘in comes the blue’, the Hospice of East Texas team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers.  End of life can be a time of reconciliation, a time for a second chance… or a third or fourth.”

Leap off the Lawn Chair…Fly!

bird picWe had watched for weeks as Mr. and Mrs. Robin worked on building their nest just outside our window.  It was fascinating as the sticks and straw and grass came together to form a home. Then, one day the building stopped, the nest was ready and Mrs. Robin began to sit.  She sat through the daylight hours and all through the night.  She sat through wind and rain, calm days and hectic days. She continued to sit even on days when the lawn mower was very loud and very close.  No matter what the day was like, Mrs. Robin remained loyal to her mission: to bring life into this world.

All of her sitting paid off.  One day Mr. and Mrs. Robin were joined by three little Robin kiddos.  They were very small and kind of fuzzy and very, very hungry.  They had some growing to do and the parents knew it.  Thus began the feeding process.  It was constant.  Mr. and Mrs. Robin busied themselves searching for food for their little Robin family and delivering their findings to outstretched necks and wide open mouths.  The scene was repeated again and again and again.

The day came one day when the three Robin kids were too big for the nest.  Things had changed and it was time to leave.  We looked and they were gone.  We said goodbye and pondered the miracle of life.  On the next morning I was sitting on the patio just before sunrise drinking a cup of coffee, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  In the dim grey of the early morning I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but whatever it was, it was very small and very still.  As the sun continued to wake up the day, the light grew brighter and I realized that what I had been looking at was one of the Robbin kids.  He/she had not gone too far.  The fledgling sat their motionless, facing the nest that had been its home.  The safety and security the nest had provided the day before, was no longer the same.  Things had changed indeed.

As I continued to watch the bird on the back of the lawn chair, Mrs. Robin flew down from a nearby tree and perched next to her offspring.  The mother fluttered her wings and chirped and then flew away again.  I’m not positive, but I think momma was reminding Jr. that things were different now.  The nest he was looking at with such longing was no longer the place it once was.  I can hear her say, “There’s a big world to explore, fresh worms to find, new robins to meet and new nests to build.”  In other words, little one, you have a life to live beyond the nest.

That is life…that is living… that is how it is once you’ve left the nest. Even if you were to go back and crawl in, you would quickly discover that it’s not the same.   Each day is a special gift. Today there are new adventures ahead.  So… Take one more look, spread your wings, and Leap off the Lawn Chair… FLY!!!

 

Later… Wes

Celebrating 50 years of nursing!

2018 is Joyce Story’s professional golden anniversary.  She has been a nurse for fifty years!Joyce Story w patient

Graduating in 1968 from Wichita General Hospital School of Nursing, a three year diploma program at the hospital in Wichita Falls, Texas, Joyce lived in the nurses’ dormitory under the close supervision of a house mother.  She remembers white caps, sharpening needles, sterilizing syringes to use over and over again.

Joyce’s first nursing job was in pediatrics, and now, fifty years later, she reflects that she has come “full circle”, working in end-of –life care as a Field Mentor and Home Care nurse for Hospice of East Texas.

In the years in-between Joyce has done med-surg nursing, been a house supervisor, and an assistant director of nursing.  She served as director of nursing in a hospital for twenty one years.

Ten years ago, she joined the staff of Hospice of East Texas.

As a Home Care nurse, Joyce spends her days visiting her hospice patients in their homes, in nursing homes and in assisted living facilities.  She treasures the close relationships and friendships she develops with patients and their families.  “I always tell them, ‘I’m not a boss.  I’m part of a team that will help you in your final days.  I promise to be here for you and to do anything I can to make these days as comfortable and joyful as possible.’”  For Joyce, this work, these relationships, are a privilege, one she’s not ready to give up just yet.

“I love this work,” Joyce asserts, though she acknowledges that it can be difficult, mentally, physically and emotionally.  “I put 2400 miles on my car every month, traveling to see my patients.  The time behind that windshield is actually good for me.  I think.  I pray.  I recharge so that I can be my best for the next family I visit.”

“My rule is to treat people the way I want to be treated,” Joyce says.  “Death will come for all of us.  It doesn’t matter how much money we have or what we have accomplished in life.  I hope there will be someone there for me when my time comes.”

For Joyce, there are so many memories from her years as a hospice nurse, but one stands out in particular.  Her patient was a hoarder, in a horrible living situation.  “Of course, all of us – nurses, social workers, physicians, volunteers – we all wanted to ‘fix it’, move the patient to someplace better, but that was her home and that’s where she wanted to stay.  She died peacefully in her home, just as she wanted.  She died with dignity.  Every human being deserves that.”

If Joyce could change one thing about her work, it would be that families call for hospice care sooner.  “There are so many misconceptions about hospice,” she says.  “We do NOT hasten death!  Our team can bring so much peace and comfort to patients and to their families, but we need time to do that.”

Definition…?

Red autumn and fishing pierWalk with me down to the edge of the water.  Step with me onto the wooden pier that connects the shoreline of seemingly solid stability to a world of liquid uncertainty.  As we make our way along the planks, notice the smell… it’s fresh, it’s muddy, it’s fishy, it’s exciting, it’s familiar.  We come to a spot where we find a small boat tide off to a metal cleat.  Let’s jump in gingerly, let’s untie the rope carefully, let’s stay as steady as we can and let’s push off.  We are going to float for a moment on the sea of memory.

Memory is a word that can be packed with emotion, especially if you have experienced loss in your life.   It could be the loss of a relationship; companionship; independence; financial stability or any number of other things you cherish.  In fact, whatever the loss, if your loss carries with it an element of love and value, you will react or respond to that loss.  It’s called…Grieving…  If you are grieving, your memory is probably connected to that which you have lost. However, while we are in the boat today, I would like to ask you to remember not only the loss but also something else.  Remember school?

Yep, that’s what I said, school.  Remember when you were in school?  Remember your teachers and your classrooms and those quirky desks you once called “home”?  Remember when your teacher would give you an assignment or a test and you would have to provide a “Definition” to a word or a term?  If you are like me, you did not always look forward to multiple trips to the glossary located at the back of the book. Looking back, it’s an amazing thing, the more definitions you learned, the more you begin to recognize the importance of the definitions. In fact, definitions provide clarity and stability and insight to the world around us and they often serve as keys that unlock the doors that lead us to further understanding and discovery.

Each of us has a “definition” attached to our lives.  It’s how we are perceived, how we are viewed, how we are accepted (or rejected), it is how we are identified by the people…including ourselves.  When we lose those that we love… dare we say it…when someone we care about and are attached to dies, it has a tendency to mess with our definition.  Everything was one way, now everything is a different way.  The definition of the word “spouse” used to be so clear… now, not so much.  The definition of son or daughter that was without question now seems to somehow demand an asterisk.  The definition of grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, aunt, uncle, friend… they all become shadowy reflections of a life before the loss.

Gradually you begin to comprehend that life, your life, is defined by “Redefinition”, and redefinition is not always easy and it’s not always pain free or guilt free.  It is, however, always a normal part of the grieving process.

Wes Bynum, Direct of Care Support Services