My Hospice Catharsis
by Louis Frazier
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Year in Medical School: 3rd
Place of birth:
Where you grew up:
College: Wake Forest University
Major(s) in College:
Goals (medical school and beyond): Become an ED doctor, write a book about my life, and act in several more plays.
Personal Philosophy on life and/or medicine: Take one day at a time.
Personal Philosophy on life and/or medicine: Remember who you were to become who you want to be.
The death of my Aunt Barbara this year was one of the intense losses for my family, and one that changed my own view of the world. After her death, I truly lost the immature idea that we are invulnerable and we will live forever. She was a beautiful woman inside and out. Like all people, she was not perfect, but she loved our family no matter what. She is the mother of four children, one of whom died at the age of 14 from a tragic drive-by shooting committed by the opposing team after he won a basketball game. I was young at the time and did not understand the magnitude of the situation and how it left a hole in my aunt’s heart. After his death, Barbara started calling me her baby. As I grew up, she would tell me she was proud of me and what I was doing. I was her little football playing doctor. When my mom and I lost our house in 2005, she was there for us. She allowed my mom to stay with her until 2010 when she died. When I came home from school I knew there was a safe place for me to rest my head, no matter what.
I remember when she got a brand new car and she refused to let anyone drive it, unless she was sure that they could drive well. For some reason when I came home from college, I asked her if I could drive the car. She was so skeptical, but when we arrived to our favorite breakfast restaurant in one piece she was impressed. Her baby had started growing up into a man. One of my favorite holiday dishes she made was super omega cheesy macaroni. Yes I created this name, but it was simply divine.
She battled cancer in the early 90s and survived for years without complications. One day in 2008, she noticed dimpling of her breast. After going to the oncologist, she found out the cancer had returned. It had metastasized to her lung. When Aunt Barbara heard the news, she told me she was going to leave it in God’s hands and she was going to keep on fighting. She had several hospitalizations from 2008-2010, but no matter what she remained vigilant. The cancer eventually metastasized to her liver, bones, and her brain. June 10th, my mom called me and told me Aunt Barbara had passed. The tears of my family in the background while my mom had explained to me what happened left me speechless.
I was not able to be there for her passing or attend her funeral for several reasons, so I felt like I never had a chance to say goodbye and celebrate her life with the rest of my family. For several weeks, I felt like a serious part of me was lost. I had psychiatry call the Saturday after her death and the resident I worked with told me to go home. I told her I could not go home because being at the hospital and learning was the only thing keeping me from falling apart.
Hospice was there for the passing of my aunt. The first time my mom told me my aunt was going to a hospice center, I immediately thought negatively about the situation. I knew it was associated with death because they were there when my grandfather died when I was 12 years old. This month of learning about hospice has taught me about an aspect of medicine that I never knew. The people that go into this specialty are simply angels. They take a patient and relieve them from all the noxious treatment they receive to battle cancer. They try to ease the pain from the cancer and the invasive treatments these patients receive. They keep patients comfortable and allowing them to rest peacefully. They give them moments with their families.
Watching Dr. Kinsley place her hand on a patient’s head and ask them how they are doing even if they were not responsive, truly touched me. Seeing her interact with the patient’s families and answering all of their questions reminded me that a patient is more than their pathology. The love and care behind this specialty is overwhelming and that is something patients and their families need in their final moments together. Watching her gave me peace to know that everything was done to try and ease my aunt’s pain and suffering in her final days. It has also taken away my fear and sadness when someone says they are being followed by hospice, and replaced with a type of joy. Joy to know that great people are there doing their best to give that person a respectable death, something Barbara deserved.
A quote from my Aunt Barbara:
“People are flowers too, all gifts from God. We have to thank him for the good and the bad; but we also have to use our life’s journey to play the gardener role and weed out what is cluttering up our gardens and make room for more of the good flowers to bloom. Beauty is an inspiration. I want to wake up every morning and look at my garden and say ‘Thank you Lord!’”
I thank hospice care for being there for my Aunt when she died. I believe they were some of the beautiful flowers mixed in with her family and friends that made her garden that much richer.
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