By Duane Crawford
Soon after my wife, Kathryn “Kay” Crawford, suffered congestive heart failure in mid-March and required surgery at the Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Mo., physicians told me that her life was limited to three-four months. We chose not to tell her, holding out hope that she would improve. Upon transfer to Putnam County Memorial Hospital, Dr. Myriad Ensling said, “Your wife is a very sick woman with a severely weakened heart, and it could fail at any time. Here and in your home she will require constant love and care.”
In the days and weeks that followed, including two more admissions to both hospitals, our family lived on hope and prayers that Kay would improve. During her stay in both hospitals, but especially our own medical facility, the care by doctors, nurses and therapy specialists was nothing short of outstanding.
Kay was released from the hospital for the last time in early June, but the heavy medications and weekly visits to the doctor were not making her better. Because of her condition, someone had to constantly care for her. We didn’t know where to turn until Anna Watt, mortician for Playle and Jones Funeral Home in Unionville, mentioned her wonderful experiences with Hospice. She told me how to contact them.
After I called Hospice of Northeast Missouri in Kirksville and answered a few of their questions, they immediately contacted Dr. Ensling for verification of Kay’s life-limiting illness and consent to provide the Hospice care my family needed.
Representatives from Hospice were soon visiting our home to provide our terminally ill loved one with the comfort, compassion, and dignity she deserved in her final weeks of life. Each of them was courteous and trusted professionals who were on call 24 hours a day. The team’s services included social workers, nurses, aides and a chaplain. They all made regular visits to our home to provide comfort, care, pain and symptom management and emotional and spiritual support. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders. We knew she was in good hands.
Despite the family’s encouragement, support, hope and many prayers, Kay’s health continued to decline. With a representative from Hospice present, our daughter and I undertook the heartbreaking task of telling her what the doctors had told us. Kay, being very observant to her surroundings, courageously said, “I’ve assumed that. I know my days are limited. I’m tired of doctor appointments and medication. I want to live out my last days in our home surrounded by my family.”
The next day Kay and I made plans for her to peacefully pass into the hands of our Lord. Playle and Jones Funeral Director Kevin Collins visited our home to help us with the difficult decisions. She selected the casket, music, pall bearers and other details. She and I later chose the pictures she wanted for display at the visitation and service. We both laughed and cried as we relived the countless memories of our life together.
Many visitors came to show support and love for our family, and her spirits remained high. Though everyone knew her life was limited, discussion focused on memories of the past and hope for the future. The Hospice team made regular visits. When we needed special medical attention, they ensured the details were promptly carried out. Kay loved that team of caregivers and wanted Hospice of Northeast Missouri to be in her obituary to receive a Memorial gift in her name.
As the end drew nearer, I slept in a chair beside her hospital bed in the living room to give her comfort and love. In the early morning hours of August 1, the Lord took her home. I immediately called Hospice and a nurse soon arrived, pronounced her dead and notified Kevin Collins.
Even though time has passed since the day of Kay’s death, Hospice continues to provide emotional and spiritual support to my family. Recently, Hospice Chaplain Carrol Davenport sent me a “Survival Guide for Early Grief,” which I’ve found to be extremely helpful. My family is indebted to that team.
Those citizens who face similar circumstances, as we did, need to be aware of the great services provided by Hospice teams across this land. Because of them, there is no reason for pain to go unmanaged or for families to struggle without support. As a 501(c) 3, not-for-profit agency, my family urges readers of this account to make donations or memorial gifts to their local Hospice teams. Donations are tax deductible. The help and support they provide can make a world of difference for those who are ill and their family members.