Thursday, March 31, 2011

The difference Hospice can make......

This post is for every Hospice worker and pallative care nurse...and to our earth angel Julie who made such a differnce.....THANK YOU seems such a small word for the dedicating care you give.......

We’ve just bought a brand spanking new bedroom setting. Its towering wooden bed head makes me feel so tiny…but like a Princess! :)

Anyway, yesterday, while clearing the space for our new bed, I found hidden under the old bed, a book!  A very very special book.

I held it in my hands like a newborn…..and I considered not opening it because what’s on the pages makes me cry. But I had to as the written memories inside are a treasure trove for my soul!

The book is from Hospice…..from the saintly staff that cared for Savannah in her final months. Each person, even her Doctor wrote a tribute to Savannah about how she touched their life.

Inscribed inside its blue covers are words that have been carefully penned through tears and truths. Composed with an intimate understanding and involvement only those of us would recognize having had the extraordinary privilege of caring for someone in their final days.

I almost passed up the opportunity and honor of having Hospice in our house, making a huge difference to our daughter’s comfort in the days that mattered most.

When Hospice gracefully entered our home, things were grim. I had a broken leg, Savannah’s feeding tube was leaking, her pain was increasing and her health was deteriorating. Deteriorating like everything in our lives...Savannah...our marriage….and Dempsey’s patience at the lack of attention she was getting as a one year old. It was like a pressure cooker….we were almost at breaking point…..the whole family!

  It was around this time Hospice came into our lives...I had my hands full.....

But I was a nurse…couldn’t I do it all…as her mother, shouldn’t I have been able to? No! I finally admitted I needed help…and lots of it.

Hospice wasn’t a foreign concept to me. They’d cared for my adored mum in her final days. They took control of mum’s pain with morphine. They showered her in a chair so I didn’t have to compromise her dignity and fed her spirit with cheerful chatter each day while they made her bed.

However, I had a hard time handing over the reins of Savannah’s care to an unknown organization….to strangers. I was scared. Our 4 year old daughter was the most important thing in my world, and like a lioness, I was protective.

Looking back, I wish I had of let them into our world sooner. So I could play the most important role in Savannah’s life…simply being her loving mum…nothing more than that! And hospice allowed me that honor in her last months.

They are such a dedicated group of people, like a team of vigilantes who do a job that requires extraordinary compassion.  To me, hospice staff have invisible wings. They are earth angels that give so much more of themselves than what is ‘medically’ required of them.

They provided not only a hospital bed that we put in our lounge room, but oxygen tanks, an air bed that circulated around Savannah’s fragile limbs to help prevent more bed sores…and the icing on the cake…liquid med’s..that was FedEx’d to our door. Before Hospice, I had to stand in long queues at Rite Aid for Savannah’s medicine, then crush them and add water, mixing the different potions that were assisting in keeping her alive. Their rolodex of priceless medical help was just that to me…priceless!

Then there’s the emotional side. These wonderful people became like family to us. One nurse, in particular, Julie! She witnessed the raw pain, the gut wrenching torture of Peter and I having to watch our daughter struggle to die…. When I was at the lowest point of my life, when I didn’t think I could take any more, she would wrap her arms around me and allow me to sob and let out my grief.

I couldn’t have made the impact to Savannah’s final days that Hospice did.

This was taken a few weeks before Savannah died..the photo of her on the right just a year earlier...

The gift they gave me was time…to sit with Savannah, to smooth her forehead and hold her hand and not leave her bedside. The gift they gave my child was a peaceful pain free passing to the other side…where there’s no more suffering for her.

And the book…well, sitting on my dusty carpet yesterday, reading the Hospice staff’s memories brought my daughter back to life. Amongst their words I found Savannah and what she meant to others…..and it was like a warm hug. I closed the book and held it to my chest…just like I would if she was here.

I’d like to leave with you with Julie’s words, her nurse, from the book, to help you understand…...the impact Savannah left on them and the comfort Hospice have given me............

"A letter to Savannah”

My dearest Savannah.

What I learned most in life was from your death. You taught me to appreciate life, and my family.

I savor every small thing, things like the sound of cracking from a bat when my son hits a ball, or my older sons snoring…which means his breathing.

 I learned to relax and let all the chips fall as they may, and knowing not all is in my control.

Your bravery taught me not to fear death; it has helped me do better at my job. I believe that because of you, I have been able to handle many situations, many families and make their passing smoother.

I believe when you were born there was already a plan for you. In that short amount of time that you were on earth, you probably enriched more lives than an elderly person.

Your passing brought about pain that I never knew. In my selfish way, I wanted you to stay. I wanted to be able to see your beautiful face, your eyes….. Savvy you taught me in a short time without speaking even…..what some people take a lifetime to learn.

I hope your smile will light the way for me when it’s time to leave here.

I hope I find your strength, your courage, your bravery when I am faced with any challenge.

I loved you the moment I met you and I miss you everyday –

God Bless –

Julie -



  1. What a beautiful post, and what an amazing find. Be sure to put your journal somewhere safe. It is priceless.

  2. Thank you for your lovely means a lot.

    I have taken your advice and have put the book in Savannah's special box...I think I had buried it under my bed as it was too painful to read at that time.

    You are right, it's priceless.

    Sending some sunshine to you in England from a hot SoCal!

    Diana x

  3. There must be something I have on a tape for you to look for when you return to The Ridge

  4. I have goosebumps.....I love you so much, and I have to say it was and is your bravery as well that I admire, to go on, to live, I remember that day still, as it has been etched in my mind forever when she went to be an angel, I remember your pain, which I will never ever forget, or how you held your girl, and in all that sorrow, I found joy, thinking of her beauty, her eyes that shed light to the beauty of her soul, I am glad you found that book, as much pain as it would cause you, it should reinforce what you already knew how special Savvy is and how she changed all lives that met her......and even now with your blog, maybe someone who has never even met her..........I love you with the bottom of my heart, and I could of never ever done my job if it wasn't for her, for you, for your and your family actually didn't make it a job, it was a gift I was given to take care of her, and in turn you all took care of me, I am so grateful for the gift of allowing me to come into your home at the most horrific part of your lives and allow me to take care of your precious Savvy, in turn she changed my life, she did leave a footprint on my soul, no matter how tiny her feet matter how many years she used those feet...she lives in my heart.....thank you...Julie

  5. Thanks Tone...anything on video would be very precious to me! xxxx kisses to you all
    d x

  6. Julie!

    I will always love you for helping us survive through the most difficult time in our life, period!

    You gave EVERYTHING of yourself and also kept me sane with your beautiful candid humour!

    I don't even have the words to express my gratitude....and for the above message....just thank you! You put things into words beautifully!

    You are so special and and YOU will always be tucked away in my heart...I smile when I think of you!

    I could only hope that others have that same special nurse that Savannah had to make such a difference to a terrible time.

    You know where we live if you are ever on the West Coast!

    Diana x

  7. I am crying so hard as I type this. What a treasure to find. I am so thankful for the gift they gave you. And the gift they gave your precious baby girl. I am sorry for your loss. Deeply sorry.

  8. Thank you for your sincere heartfelt comment this is a gift to me today!

    My daughter Savannah touched so many lives and I'm grateful you are another that can maybe find some appreciation of this wonderful gift we call life today.

    I'll look forward to checking out your blog.

    With much appreciation,

    Diana x

  9. What a beautiful tribute to hospice!!!!!!!

    We had a horrendous experience when my Dad died in hospital. We (my mom, dad and I) were dumped in a private room when we were told he might not make it through the night. We had only just got his diagnosis and had no understanding of what to expect at death and how to comfort someone who is dying.

    Thank goodness we had hired a personal support worker for the night. Otherwise we were alone, except when I went searching for a nurse to beg for morphine.

    Afterwards I read so many books by hospice nurses about common experiences at death and how to support someone who is dying.

    How wonderful that you found that memory book and the compassion contained within. What a powerful way to honour your daughter. xo

  10. Dear Louise,

    I'm so sorry you had such a horrendous experience with your Dad. I know my mum was adamant she wanted to be at home and Hospice allowed that for her thank goodness.

    Hospice did so much for Savannah and I will always be an advocate for them and for the utter dedication and support they provide people like you and I Louise when going through such a difficult time when losing a loved one.

    I love your blog and read it religiously! Thank you for stopping by mine.

    Sending you a hug and love for your days....

    Diana x

  11. I am bawling over here. What a wonderful tribute this post is to hospice care. And what a heart-wrenchingly beautiful letter Savannah's nurse wrote. It truly does sound like she was family. She obviously loved your daughter and your family so much!!

  12. Candice,

    Thank you for leaving a comment and I'm sorry if this post made you must be your pregnancy hormones...Congrats!

    The hospice book has so many beautiful beautiful letters to Savannah, maybe I'll share them sometime on my blog. They are sad, however make you appreciate this wonderful gift of life and bring me comfort, even though Savannah is gone.

    Julie, her nurse is an amazing girl, and yes, like family.....she was and is one of my earth angels. Savannah was so very lucky to have her care for her when she was so sick.

    I'll look forward to reading your blog...thank you for stopping by mine, it means a lot to know Savannah is still making a difference .

    With love
    Diana x

  13. oh diane, i understand so well what angels hospice staff are. they cared for our samuel before he passed away, and for us. without them our lives would be such very different things. they are gifts sent straight from heaven.

  14. Dear Heather,

    Thank you for stopping by. You are so right, Hospice Staff are special special people....I know you understand having suffered the loss of your beautiful boy Samuel.

    You do a wonderful thing with the books you dontate to the PICU's....they are a place no parent ever wants to be. I remember being there with Savannah and having to bring books.

    I look forward to helping you with donating books for little ones like our angels!

    with love
    Diana x