Story submitted by David Powell, Upstate Community Hospice House; Agape Care of South Carolina.
No man left behind is a foundational value of all that have served in the U.S. Military. And in the military, the wider meaning of no one left behind I have learned doesn’t end in combat.
I have always viewed our veterans as no longer being active or having been discharged from duty. In being discharged from duty they are released from their obligation to serve. However today I have seen firsthand the obligation to serve and leave no man behind never ceases.
At the Upstate Community Hospice House, we have recently renovated to be able to accommodate and serve more families and patients. Six of our rooms were reconstructed to accommodate for two patients in one room. Filling semi-private rooms requires great attention to detail as you have 2 people from different backgrounds co-existing and it’s essential to have a good pairing so both enjoy the experience. As we all know to qualify for Hospice a person has a terminal illness with a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Some may question why during the last months of one’s life you would not want to provide a patient with privacy in their own room. Our goal is that when a patient in a semi-private room begins to show signs of transitioning, we relocate him/her to a private room.
When I arrived to work Monday morning, I checked in with the staff at the nurse’s station. I was updated on the conditions of our patients. I was informed that one of our patients in a semi-private room was actively dying and unresponsive. My first reaction was “we need to move him to a private room.” His nurse immediately spoke up and said, “no he is fine.” You see the two-gentleman sharing the room were both veterans. I will refer to them as Veteran A, and Veteran B. The one gentleman Vet. A has been with us for several months. Vet. B had only been with us for about a week. He did not have any family and lived in a motel. He became very sick and was no longer able to care for himself and was expected to decline quickly. When he came to our Hospice House he was withdrawn with a flat affect. We placed him in a semiprivate room with Vet A. The two immediately bonded however Vet. B had a very unexpected decline over 24-48 hrs. When Vet A was approached about the condition of Vet B his wishes were for us to allow Vet B to remain in the room with him. He wanted to be there for him in his last days and did not want him to die alone. Vet A told us he would watch out for him. Vet B passed peacefully yesterday morning with Vet A at his side.
These were gentleman who had one thing in common- being part of the U.S. Military. I have learned that indeed being part of a branch of the military you are always on active duty and looking out for your fellow man. Even though Vet A. was bedbound he did not leave the side of his fellow veteran. I also take away with this experience that having a Semi-Private room was a God Send. May we all see the good in this and be proud to be part of a team and organization that is able to meet and exceed the needs of our patients and families.