Another committee member I'll call Don, was a local pharmacist and was licensed to administer the *Hospice Cocktail* as we called it, which was the morphine that allowed terminal patients to get through their last days in as little pain as possible. We also had several well known local nurses on the board, as well as a minister from the Episcopal church. Together, we were able to finally set up a real Hospice, as the need for Hospice was growing stronger by the week.
Anyway, one of the people I looked after was this precious little Latino lady named Rosa Carillo who was confined to a run down nursing home for her last days. She told me that she had family in town but they never came to visit, which just broke my heart. I made it my personal mission to see that this sweet little woman had someone she could rely on during her last days. I would go nearly every day to visit her, taking cookies I'd baked, or magazines and sometimes flowers from my garden.
The first day that I went to visit her I was completely appalled by the conditions in this so called nursing home. When she rose from her bed to a sitting position I saw that she had more bed sores than I'd even known was possible to have. I could see cockroaches scuttering about on the filthy floor and spider webs in the corners of the ceilings. The entire place smelled horrid and was not as clean as a nursing home should legally be. Well, I proceeded to raise bloody hell. I became such a thorn in the side of the nursing home employees that I was almost certain they were going to have me assassinated at any given moment. The staff was always sitting and doing nothing or watching TV when I came in, which was clearly not what they were being paid to do. So I'd bitch and complain and at least get things done for Rosa. It got to where if they saw me coming, they would all suddenly be busy *cleaning* when the entire place would have probably been better off if it were just imploded. Yes, it was that dirty.
The more I got to know Rosa, the more I wondered why her family didn't come around to see that all of her needs were being met and at least tell her hello. But, she was old and very sick so perhaps they just couldn't handle that. There are many people who can't handle watching death take someone they love. I have become well versed in watching death descend on those I love over the years but I'm still not calloused. It still hurts inside, although I can always manage to put a smile on my face for them and be there for them.
I spent three and a half months looking after Rosa and I got a fair amount of improvement in living conditions at the nursing home. Even though I bitched and moaned to the employees, I was always polite about it and I also brought the staff goodies from time to time, which certainly helped my cause. As far as I could tell, the only
I repeatedly asked the staff to call me if Rosa's condition worsened and they agreed that they would. One morning I rose to drink my coffee and read the newspaper before making my daily rounds and I was suddenly cramping and bent over in pain. I knew what was happening. Next there would be blood. I'd already been through it twice before, so I called my OB and by that night was in the hospital waiting to have yet another D&C (dilation and curettage) to clean out the *leftovers* of my miscarried child.
I was sad and I cried my eyes out but deep in my heart I knew that there must have been something not right with the baby and the miscarriage was God's way of taking care of it. When I was allowed to go home the next day, I received a call from one of our Hospice nurses, telling me Rosa had died peacefully, in her sleep the night before. Frankly, we should all be so lucky.
I was doubly devastated by this news which sent me into tears for days. I had really become very fond of Rosa. However, I felt that somehow, Rosa was taking care of my little one for me. I realize that probably sounds a little cuckoo but I was totally convinced that she died the same night as my miscarriage so that she could care for my unborn child the way I had cared for her. Well, this line of thinking got me through the devastation anyway. I do believe that as human beings, we do what we have to do to get through difficult situations, even if it means delusional thinking.
After a month or so I was finally back to doing my normal things and visiting my Hospice people, but Rosa had somehow carved her way into a little corner in my heart and I knew there would not be someone like her again. The hardest part about working with Hospice was knowing that the people you were looking after were going to die soon. Most people just can't handle it. I couldn't handle it for very long. Thankfully, after we eventually got the whole program set up and the needed number of nurses on board, Hospice was up and running. After that, I stayed on the board for a couple of years and then resigned when our son was born.
I still think about Rosa from time to time and the way her face would light up whenever I would walk through her door. It always gave me such an elated feeling to know that I could brighten someone's day so much by my presence.... Honestly, I don't think anyone has ever been so happy to see me as Rosa was during those months. I kind of miss that.
Oh, and I helped get that nursing home closed down until it could find someone new to buy it and do the necessary improvements and upgrades. It was eventually purchased by a medical group out of Dallas that manages several nursing homes around the state. It's still not nearly as nice as the other local nursing homes, but it is clean. Just because you don't have a big bank account is no reason for someone who has reached the end of their life to be mistreated or neglected. Everyone deserves to be cared for properly in the end.