My nursing career was born in intensive care units and emergency trauma rooms, serving patients in fast-paced, critical settings. When dealing with cardiac arrests or other life-and-death emergencies, I felt highly comfortable helping patients in these crucial moments.
So when my nursing focus shifted to hospice and palliative care (first in Northern Virginia), I was also comfortable asking the tough questions.
My mentor, author and RN Maggie Callanan, taught me to use the first two to three hospice visits with our patients to build trust and understand their beliefs, wishes, and needs so that we could best serve them in whatever time they might have.
Maggie stressed the importance of hoping for the best by preparing for the worst and so during the initial visits we intentionally asked: “If you could design your own death, how would you do it?; Where would you want to be and who would you want to be there?; Do you believe in something after death?; What do we need to do to make you feel as comfortable as you can be?”
Many people know the beauty of the words drawn from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3. This ancient poem (in the 1611 King James Bible) begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” And then, the second verse continues, “A time to be born, and a time to die.”
The writer is correct, every one born will, someday, die. That we will die is not unexpected, but it is a moment not easily faced. It is not a topic we lift up in polite company. We sense its finality in our souls and are often ill-equipped to face it. Death can feel like the ultimate thief, the ultimate enemy and so we convince ourselves that it is far away and refuse to acknowledge it is a reality for all who ever draw breath.
The most important thing to know about my wife, Shirley Weisbrod, is that she has been a remarkable person all of her life.
By age 12 she would head out all alone each Saturday, taking two street cars from her Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago to the Field Museum in order to get lost in their exhibits.
Three years later, she had become a talented seamstress and dress designer, eventually gaining an acceptance letter from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Ultimately, however, she attended the University of Illinois, earning a degree in education, and later earned a fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin.)
The first patient to be admitted to the Marshak Family Hospice Pavilion was a 64 year old married female who was admitted to IPU at Lieberman with metastatic melanoma. She was admitted for management of abdominal pain and for end of life care. She was the first patient transferred from the IPU at Lieberman to the Hospice Pavilion. Her name was Utaiwon Maleegrai and she was my mother.
I have worked at Midwest CareCenter for over ten years and have had the privilege of working with many wonderful people and in three different departments.
I first worked in HomeCare Assistants, helping with the scheduling of caregivers, and then transferred to our Home Health division in the Evanston office. I later became a Hospice Administrative Assistant and now work in the Glenview office.
In the book The Four Agreements, an international best seller by don Miguel Ruiz, what is meant by the word agreement? And what are these four agreements?
Agreements are beliefs that we have learned and created in our lives that tell us how life works, how we should run our lives, and how to think about ourselves and each other.
Rev. Susan Martersteck is currently the chaplain at the Marshack Pavilion and the Suite at Northwest Community Hospital. She has been a field chaplain and worked with our pediatric team. Susan started her career at Midwest CareCenter a volunteer. She began as a chaplain almost 14 years ago and has appreciated all the opportunities to work with "the best people ever." Working here truly embodies the concept of "every day sacred."
For me, the joy in my role as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) comes from my interaction with our patients. No day is ever the same. I take great pride in my work and do my best to make each patient feel as if they are the only patient I am caring for that day. I have been a CNA for many years and always strive to create special relationships with patients.
Catholic priest and Midwest CareCenter volunteer, Fr. Dennis Logue, participated in Lake County Honor Flight in June. Midwest CareCenter's We Honor Veterans program partners with Lake County Honor Flight to send veterans to honor their service by sending them on an overnight trip to Washington D.C. to see their war memorials, with priority given to World War II and Korean War vets. Here, Fr. Logue describes his experience:
I've you've never gone on an Honor Flight, you just can't imagine what the trip is like.
I am delighted to be exhibiting my work at Midwest CareCenter. I was inspired to do so by two other artists, one of whom had a sister who was cared for there, another a doctor who used to work with the organization.