When Our Patient Was My Husband
Posted by Diane Klick, Massage Therapist
One of the highlights of my career as a Massage Therapist and member of JourneyCare's Integrative Therapies team was also the most challenging of all. My husband and love of my life, Peter, was the patient, unfortunately, at the young age of 64. It tested all my strength, boundaries, love and belief in God and this world.
Peter inspired me to become a massage therapist and always supported and loved therapeutic massages, which he always insisted I do to practice on him (in the beginning) and then after that because it helped him so much.
The radiation and chemotherapy from 15 years before, which ironically extended his life, now inflicted devastating late side-effects on his failing body and brain with inevitable strokes, frontotemporal dementia and neuromuscular disease. Little did I know that our hospice Integrative Therapies team and work colleagues would one day make so much of a difference in our lives.
Peter was in our hospice care for a year, through his rapid decline, and now living in a local nursing home to be cared for around the clock and kept safe. I sadly could no longer take him home, even on the weekends.
He only wanted to just “go home,” so we engaged the JourneyCare’s Integrative Therapies group to redirect and console him in order to find peace in his mind. Connecting mind and body is what we therapists do, bringing together the mind and the body to a place of healing. I knew my colleagues would be able to calm Peter from anxiety-stress, as he did not seem himself anymore, and to somehow bring Peter back to the loving, caring person he was.
Peter was fortunate enough to experience each therapy through his illness and decline: music, art, massage, music-thanatology and even pet therapy. He loved dogs and missed our Fritzi every day at home, so when we brought in a pet therapist (who was just as patient and pleasant as his dog) Peter was so happy to hold the dog for comfort and he even sat with him on his bed as they fell asleep together.
We called in Art Therapist Megan Andriano for art therapy, as Peter’s life and work consisted mostly of sketching and drawing. He drew and colored what he could, and when he no longer could color, she colored for him, inspired him, and listened meticulously as he talked and talked to her about his books and work, and thus impart some of his knowledge of color, form and space to her as well.
Music Therapist Beth Briggs came with her guitar and sang to him and the others at his nursing home in Palatine. We asked her to make Peter a CD, with all of his favorite music through the ages. So listening to his own custom-made CD was, each time, like a life review for Peter, from Elvis and Guns ’n’ Roses thru Hansel and Gretel’s “Abendlied.”
He loved massages, so we engaged Massage Therapist Dana Conlon to relieve discomfort in his aching legs and specific circulatory work for his icy-cold hands and feet, as movement became more limited and he became immobile.
Music-Thanatologist Margaret Pasquesi then came to sing and play the harp to him right at his bedside. Peter awoke and said, “Am I still here? I thought I was in heaven with the angel singing to me.”
Peter asked me often, “When can they come again? Please, ask them to come again when they can.” It was through all these beautiful therapists, individually and as a team, that brought peace to Peter!
The hospice therapists and their fine-tuned work, customized to fit Peter, brought him comfort with what he was confronting, allowed him to finally accept that which no one could change, and helped him to really look forward to where he was going. Integrative Therapies made his life bearable.
Peter was able to die in such peace at The Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington. He was surrounded with only beauty and peace. All the therapists stuck by me and Peter, as we did one last pow-wow with Fritzi, too, at his bedside, with wine, cheese, dips, singing and laughter as he would have wanted. It was a very profound and beautiful time and still inspires me to this day.
I am most grateful to our Integrative Therapies team. Along with his first care team, then the exceptional compassionate care of the CareCenter team and Dr. Chris Schwartz-Peterson, my JourneyCare colleagues made all the difference for Peter, as well as for me. I am indebted forever for the unforgettable care and kindness of terrific employees and volunteers, that carried us through and that I experienced firsthand through my Peter. It was a life changing event, for sure. I have come full circle with JourneyCare, experiencing what I came here to learn and do, but in the most delicate and most difficult way imaginable.
I treasure even more what we do each day in helping our patients, and families, to find some sort of peace with each individual situation.