The Longest of Days
Pete’s disease had not been kind to him. He should have been advancing in a career or starting a family. Instead, function-robbing complications from a lifelong series of medical battles were taking their toll. Pete was dying.
Maxine Cochran was his nurse, and it pained her to watch her patient suffer and to see his mother struggle with the reality that her son was not long for this world. Over the previous few weeks, Maxine had built a rapport with Pete’s family. She befriended visitors, helped Pete remain active for as long as possible, and even helped a younger sibling break through a barrier that had proven difficult to manage. On Pete’s last day, Maxine checked on him during the morning, but the medicine changes she implemented weren’t controlling his seizure-like symptoms or his pain. He needed constant care. Maxine rescheduled the rest of her day to make sure he received it.
The afternoon turned into evening as a cocktail of medicines was required to help keep Pete comfortable. As the evening unfolded, Maxine, a seasoned hospice nurse, called Dr. Gerald McCormick, medical director for Heyman HospiceCare, to update him on their patient and to adjust orders for his comfort. Dr. McCormick knew Pete’s need was a special one. While he could have given orders and instructed Maxine to call with any follow-up concerns, he didn’t. Dr. McCormick came to Pete’s home, and together, the hospice nurse and doctor kept watch over their patient and comforted his family. Pete was special, Maxine said. She had never seen a patient affect Dr. McCormick in the way Pete had touched him.
The intense care continued into the night. Dinner time came and passed. Pete’s medical needs were immediate and consuming. No one was thinking about food. In her desire to care for the people caring for her son, Pete’s mother arranged for a simple dinner of hot dogs to be delivered. Stopping to eat a late hot dog and drink a glass of Pete’s favorite sweet tea was the only break Maxine took that night. Both had determined to stay as long as they were needed, and the need was apparent.
Maxine led a prayer with Pete and his mother, and a short time later Pete completed his journey. There in the quiet was Maxine, still by his side, still monitoring and still caring on what, no doubt, felt like the longest of days.