the best possible day

11 Oct

When I entered medical school, I thought I wanted to go into geriatrics, in large part because of the profound impact my experience volunteering at a hospice group had (has) on me.  My youngest daughter will always allow me to think fondly the first hospice patient I cared f0r.  Her name was Evelyn, and she was a force of nature.

Though the idea of facilitating what might be end-of-life care for pediatric patients shakes my core, I’ve often wondered whether I might still one day work in palliative care.   This recent piece by Atul Gawande in the Times has been on my mind:

Medicine has forgotten how vital such matters are to people as they approach life’s end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, connect with loved ones, and to make some last contributions to the world. These moments are among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind. And the way we in medicine deny people these moments, out of obtuseness and neglect, should be cause for our unending shame.

Peg, however, got to fulfill her final role. She lived six weeks after going on hospice. Hunter had lessons for four of those weeks, and two final concerts were played. One featured Peg’s current students, all younger children; the other, her former students from around the country. Gathered in her living room, they played Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven for their adored teacher. A week later, she fell into delirium and, a short time after that, died peacefully in her bed.

John just ordered Gawande’s new book, Being Mortal, and I am looking forward to when I might find a time to delve in.

On a similar note, if you haven’t read and watched the story of Brittany Maynard, I have no words:

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One Response to “the best possible day”

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