From schooling to present career, this story encompasses Traci Dyksterhouse’s journey and her family’s experience with Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
My hospice journey.
My hospice journey began in nursing school. My very first clinical instructor was a part-time Rose Arbor nurse. She would share her experiences as a hospice nurse and the rewards of caring for those at end of life. In the midst of my learning about sometimes uncomfortable (or downright painful) nursing interventions, skills, and procedures, I was enamored with the idea of comfort care and the idea of that being a focus in my upcoming nursing career. In the summer between nursing semesters, I volunteered at Rose Arbor to get a feel for what it was like there and was struck by the sense of peace I had walking through those doors. I watched the staff. I learned about Rose Arbor’s history. I greeted families coming in and provided tours. I would arrange flowers and distribute them about the building. All the while feeling honored to take part in Rose Arbor’s beauty. I knew undoubtedly this would be where I would land as a nurse.
Flash-forward to just one year post graduation. Having my inpatient hospital experience under my belt – I was anxious to apply to HCSWMI. I was thrilled to be offered a position and quickly became part of your Rose Arbor team. I learned from the best there – how to tenderly, skillfully, compassionately care for those at end of life- making comfort and dignity my focus. I worked alongside some of the best nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, and physicians I had ever met. I learned from every one of them.
Later, my journey took me to the other side.
My Mom who lived with Alzheimer’s for 7 years was dying. Her symptoms were out of control. She needed help. I needed help. I will never forget the sight Dr. Raphelson walking through the door of my mom’s hospital room, with his weathered black ‘doctor’s bag’ in tow – arriving to, what felt like, rescue my mom. And me. He might as well have been Superman with his cape. That’s how it felt to me, the daughter, desperate for her mom to be at peace and her symptoms managed. The following day she was transported from the hospital and arrived to Rose Abor with Dr. Seagle standing at the door. The vision of him walking alongside her stretcher through the hall with me trailing behind, feeling overcome with gratitude and relief for the whole team about to take over care of my mom, will never leave me. This is what it’s like for family. This gift you all give and don’t even know it.
A few days later my mom died in peace. What a beautiful end you gave my loving mom. And me.
A mere few months later my Dad needed help.
He was dying from end-stage cancer and living with me and my family. It was an easy decision to call Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan for help. Once again, you were by my side – this time in my own home. My dad’s wish was to die here in our house with his family near. And because of the skilled and compassionate care of our tender nurse, he was able to do so comfortably. My family and I were supported the whole way. What a ride those weeks were – full of tears, laughter, and love. My family bonded like no other.
A few weeks later, my dad quietly died just before the sun rose. What a beautiful end you gave my loving Dad. And me.
I’m no longer giving care at the bedside.
Although I’m no longer giving care at the bedside in my current nursing role within our agency, the pride I feel being a part of this hospice team holds strong. I’m honored in a new way: to support our team behind the scenes. It’s the least I can do to give back to you all.
A nurse and daughter