This is a story about Doug; Doug’s story does not have a typical ending. It is always our goal at HOPE to help guests secure housing. In the case of Doug, the goal was different. Our goal with Doug was to work toward a peaceful transition to the next life.
Doug came to HOPE’s Recuperate Care Center in the fall of 2015 after his hospitalization for a lung problem. As it turned out, the lung problem was cancer. One of the complicating factors for attending Doug’s medical needs was the stage of his cancer was unknown.
While his medical team was arranging for a variety of diagnostic tests it was easy to observe that Doug was rapidly losing weight.
Throughout the course of treatments and evaluations, HOPE nursing staff was in regular contact with the doctors and staff of the cancer center. There was regular collaboration with the Oakland County public health nurse who was following Doug’s treatment and care. To help with Doug’s weight loss, the nurses provided nutritional supplement drinks.
In mid fall, Doug’s daughters reached out to us and the Recuperative Center Manager who encouraged them to visit, even though they lived in Tennessee. Everyone was encouraged when the daughter's visited. It was clear that the visit lifted Doug’s spirits.
As Thanksgiving approached, he was getting worse and everyone felt a return visit from his girls would be good medicine for him. He was aware of his deteriorating health, as a result he refused to have staff call them. Doug did not want his daughters to observe his decline.
In December testing confirmed what the nursing staff suspected, Doug had an advanced stage four cancer that had spread to other sites. Doug's weight loss continued despite efforts to boost him up.
At Christmas he once again refused contacting his daughters, who wanted to visit. Doug had a quiet courage about him. It is difficult for most to face the end of their mortal selves. Doug seemed to be at peace with his situation. During the holidays Doug chose a Christmas ornament that said, “Believe.” In retrospect, he seemed to be peacefully preparing himself for the great adventure beyond.
HOPE received a donation of books, which included titles by James Patterson and a John Grisham. Doug quickly secured the titles he wanted most and began to read. Most of his spare time was spent reading.
After the first of the year Doug’s condition became progressively worse. As Doug’s condition developed we realized that Doug did not have an Advanced Directive. HOPE Staff was able to secure blank copies from the cancer center where Doug was being treated. One of our nurses; Chris, who has over 15 years experience in hospice care, sat down with Doug. Chris was able to explain and complete the advance directive with him. Following that signing the advanced directive was taken to his sister a few miles away. Doug’s condition was explained to his sister as well as the need for the advance directive, which she signed.
Around the same time there was another conversation about allowing Doug’s daughters to visit him. After this conversation Doug agreed to have his daughters visit. By the time his daughters arrived from Tennessee, Doug needed to go to the hospital. HOPE Staff spent time explaining to them his condition and how seriously ill he was. Doug’s daughters were able to take him to the hospital. While at the hospital he was put in hospice care. A few short days later Doug passed peacefully with his family by his side.
Everything that could have been done for Doug was done. During Doug’s time with us we were able to get him approved for housing; which could not be realized. He received excellent, compassionate care leaving no stone unturned to help. Doug’s case required collaboration on all parts and between organizations. Each person who interacted with Doug’s case can say they did their best to be of service.
Lastly, it must be said Doug made friends so very easily. He had a regular group of guys around him all the time. Professionals (doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.) are trained to keep a professional distance from the people they work with. Working with Doug felt more like helping a friend going through a rough patch. His smile and caring attitude towards others transcended professional boundaries. It made it nearly impossible not to like him! As a result, his passing touched everyone that worked with him. We all received more than we gave and we have Doug to thank for that!