My husband's cancer journey began in 2003 and ended following a long and complicated nine and half week hospitalization for severe aspiration pneumonia. My husband moved between multiple units at MGH and even Spaulding but he spent three weeks and ultimately received end-of-life care on Lunder 9.
Elizabeth was a steady presence throughout his almost three weeks on Lunder 9. Early in his stay he was weak but still fighting to do as much as he could and to spend as much time out of bed as possible with the goal of going home. While this could be time-consuming, Elizabeth always took the time to assist him with moving from chair to bed or back enabling him to feel more in control of his day. Elizabeth got to know my husband, his family, his past work in health care consulting and hospital administration, as well as his love of the ocean, sports, and golf.
Although he couldn't speak due to his condition, Elizabeth always took the time to understand his request, question, or concern via facial expressions, hand gestures, Yes and No questions, pointing, or writing. Elizabeth always called my husband by name and explained what she was doing, stopping if he was uncertain to clarify or assist him. When he was confused or mildly agitated, she took the time to calm and reassure him before proceeding with the necessary care.
No matter how busy she was, Elizabeth never rushed him or us and always listened. He always seemed glad to learn that Elizabeth would be his assigned nurse for a shift and although most of his care providers talked about how kind and expressive he was. Elizabeth was the one who said, "He smiles with his eyes he really has a SMIZE!"
One evening I received a phone call from the hospital shortly after I arrived home after spending much of the afternoon and evening with my husband to inform me about a change in his condition. His blood pressure was low and his heart rate was more rapid. They wanted me to have the opportunity to come back to the hospital to be with him. They were trying fluids and intravenous antibiotics, but they were concerned his condition may require a transfer to ICU if that was within his goals of care. I was uncertain and felt unable to make a decision while driving, especially as my husband could not express his wishes via phone. Although Elizabeth was not assigned to care for my husband that evening she assisted by going in the room with the physician to discuss his wishes with him and to help determine if he understood the situation because she had a relationship with him.
A few days later the difficult decision was made to transition to comfort-focused care with a possible discharge to a hospice house near our home. During those final days, our daughter and I stayed at the hospital around the clock trying to sleep when we could, my daughter on the sofa bed and me in a recliner next to his bed. Elizabeth asked if we needed anything; we said no but she brought linens pillows and toothbrushes before we even realized that we needed them. As I tried to sleep leaning against the side rail, Elizabeth asked if I would like her to put down the side rail for my comfort and closeness to my husband.
During the night when she came into the room to assess my husband and do a reposition for his comfort I was about to get up and out of the way. She encouraged me to stay where I was and rolled the recliner away from the bed until she and a colleague had finished caring for my husband. She then rolled me back next to him in an attempt to facilitate my sleep.
Even when Elizabeth was not assigned to care for my husband she would stop by briefly to say hello, check on him, and ask how my daughter and I were doing. Following my husband's passing, we received a thoughtful card from Elizabeth demonstrating once again how much she truly cared and how well she knew him and us by her handwritten note. Her support during these difficult weeks was immense and we recall this with sincere appreciation and gratitude.