I spent most of the morning on the phone with IS/trying to log onto my new mini HP laptop. Everything has its own password and code and this and that and nothing was working! I think I’m at least closer to having everything figured out technologically speaking.
After messing with computer logistics for over two hours, the MT and I went to see a pt who is now actively dying, upon request from the nurse. This pt is the mother of the pt we saw on Friday (we sang Christian hymns with her; she is being ‘graduated’ from our services.) The pt’s niece and daughter were present. We sang as many spiritual tunes we could think of. The daughter even sang with us, beautifully harmonizing on the spot. We sang “Amazing Grace,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and a few others. I sang “I Can Only Imagine” since it was a Christian song I knew pretty well. (I didn’t realize how fitting the lyrics were to a hospice setting until as I was singing it to her! “Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel, will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you be still, will I sing Hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all, I can only imagine…”) The MT asked the niece if we could sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and the niece told us that she’d love it – she used to sing it all the time to her grandchildren. The MT then dedicated the song to all the pt’s grandchildren, and new great-grandchild just born today, and also, to all her loved ones.
The niece and daughter expressed their gratitude for us coming to see the pt. The daughter showed us the pt’s bible. On the back page, she had written a list of songs which the daughter believes is what her mother wants played at her memorial service. I wrote the songs down for us to reference later, and the MT offered for us to learn some of the songs for the next time we see them.
The two talked to us about looking at death in the light that the loved one is leaving this world to go to a much better place; that their mother/aunt has been waiting for this moment for 70+ years – to be with God in Heaven. It’s obvious that this family’s particular coping method is focusing on their faith, and that their loved one’s soul will be taken somewhere perfect, and it will be better for her to be in Heaven, with all the loved ones who have gone before her. In contrast, the MT believes that the pt’s other daughter, our former pt, is coping by believing her mother’s personality has already left; that all that’s left behind at this moment is a body stricken will illness. Since she herself cannot be there to help take care of her mother in her final days due to the limitations her own illness places upon her, she chooses to believe her mother mentally isn’t there anyway. The MT and I are not ones to judge whether the pt’s persona is still present or not, but she did open her eyes a number of times while we were playing music for her, and the nurse claimed the pt still responds to questions being asked. All in all, everyone we’ve seen, family and pt, seem to be coping in some way or other.
Although I’m still uncertain as to where my own personal faith lies, it seems a little too ironic and pre-conceived that within the same family, a baby enters the world right as a loved one passes on… a beautiful work of choreography on God’s part from the Christian voice within me.
Around 12:30 we visited a nursing facility where we currently have three patients. The main gathering space was brightly lit by large chandeliers and natural sunlight. In the far corner of the room was a beautiful upright piano, of which I had the pleasure of playing. As I sat down on the wooden bench, I flipped through my book of classical music. I soon realized how many songs I’ve been meaning to learn, but just never got around to it. – How I wish I would’ve spent more time expanding my repertoire! Luckily I found two songs easy enough to sight read, and one that I actually have been practicing on and off for about 3 years. As I was playing Bach’s “Prelude in C”, a woman walked over to me and asked when I was going to play some Rock ‘n Roll. I told her, “Oh, that’s next week!” and she laughed and walked away. As I was playing the second piece, she walked over again and said, “Come on now, you gotta rock out!” I just smiled and continued to play. During the third song, she came over yet another time, and this time, I don’t even know what she said. Again I smiled, and continued to play.
Out of all the residents gathered there, only one was one of our hospice patients. It worked out alright though, since the MT was able to sit with the pt while I played and give him one-on-one attention.
As I played the last few notes of Debussy’s “Reverie”, I stood up, grabbed my book of classical unknowns, and gave the MT a distinct look. She knew without me having to say anything that I had already exhausted my set of songs I had prepared to play and that I was ready to move on. She said her good-byes to the pt, and we left to go see the other two pts who were in their rooms.
The first pt we went off to find was fast asleep in his bed. The MT told me he was a retired policeman and is known for his ability to firmly grasp a staff member, thanks to his prior training. She softly spoke to him to see if he would wake up, but was weary to touch him, afraid he might grab a hold of her and not let go! (Could you blame her??) We hated to have come and just leave without singing to him, so upon suggestion from the MT, we sang a patriotic tune, “God Bless America.” The MT first asked the pt’s roommate if it was alright if we sang, and he granted us permission. In fact, he sang right along with us, blundering through the words he didn’t know, proudly singing to his heart’s content. It was good to hear him singing the words to a song, rather than hearing him talk about “all the foxes” down the hall as he was saying earlier.
A full song later, the pt still didn’t budge. We let him be and went on to the next pt. This pt was also sleeping! (Afternoon naps – if it were me, I’d probably be sleeping too…) The MT knows this particular pt likes songs from The Sound of Music, so we sang an acapella “Edelweiss.” Twice through this German number and patient #2 did not awake either! Perhaps everyone had a case of the Mondays today…
We went back to the office to do some documentation, and I barely got anything done because, of course, I couldn’t log into our documentation software. After yet another phone call to IS, I managed for the first time ever to access our documentation site.
The MT called (and spoke directly to!) one of our pts to schedule a visit for this afternoon. She was the very first pt I saw here in California, and is also the grandmother of one of our HCCs. However, our plans were changed when one of our nurses called and asked us to go see a pt who was actively dying. This was the pt at our impromptu Valentine’s Day/Mardi Gras celebration who kept trying to stand up during “Stand By Me.” (Gotta love him for that.) Since we also had another pt at that particular facility who we didn’t see the day of the celebration, the MT went to see her while I saw Mr. Stand-up. I suppose I would’ve been more nervous to see a pt by myself for the first time, but the poor man was so sound asleep, he practically snored to the beat of the music. I tried everything. I played fast songs, slow songs, touched his arm, spoke to him, knelt down by his bed and sang… nothing seemed to grab his attention. That’s when I began to question myself: why was I even trying to get his attention? If the man’s tired, let him sleep! I hope that he either didn’t notice me being there, or he was comforted by my presence, and that I didn’t disturb him. I touched his hand, told him I’ll be thinking of him (since I’m torn on telling people I’ll “pray” for them since I don’t really pray…) and left to go find the MT.
When I entered the room the MT was in, she and her pt were in the middle of discussing “their favorite things,” brought on by singing “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. She was a really nice lady who said she enjoys all sorts of music. When she told me she liked the Beatles I was very pleasantly surprised! The MT let me play some songs for her, and together we sang “Edelweis” (for the second time today), “All My Lovin’”, “Brown Eyed Girl” (but changed it to “Green Eyed Girl”… even though I kept forgetting!) and “Blue Skies.” She told us we should take our show on the road, so we officially named her our manager. So, if you want to book the MT and I for a show, you have to talk with our darling manager first! (And thanks to HIPAA, I can’t tell you her name, so I guess it’s gonna be quite a challenge for you to contact her… best of luck though!)
We said our good-byes and went to go chart on the pts. I got to chart on our dear sleepy head stander (my first time charting!) and the MT charted on our band manager. Then the MT helped me document on the pts in the computer, and then – home! (And lots and lots of traffic in between those two things.)
Oh, and thank you to my MT supervisor for the guitar, picks, capo, binder of 1000 songs, and carrying case! I finally got to be one of those crazy MTs walking the halls with a guitar strapped to my back :)
And another thing, one of the secretaries at a facility we went to today said "Oh, I hate when I see you guys." She said that because when we come, it means one of the patients is dying. I never really thought of it like that before... the only reason we go to these places is to serve someone who is dying... I guess if you've accepted the fact that this particular person is at the end of life, then us coming is a good thing, as we help to make the best of the time he/she has left. But if you just see us in a general sense, then I guess it's true, we're total bearers of bad news... a stigma of death and dying... Ok... I shouldn't think like that. It's not true. We're there to support a living breathing human being, and that's that.