I was asked if I would visit with a patient in a facility as her current volunteer would be unable to continue. The patient was bed bound but very social and had little to no family locally. As it was just before Christmas I readily agreed. I arrived for my first visit on December 26 only to find her son, niece, and great nephew in the hall outside her room. I found out that over the holiday the patient had contracted a virus and was not conscious most of the time. I wanted to support the family but not interrupt their time together so I agreed to come back in a couple of days to see if they needed relief for an hour or two.
When I returned, her son had returned to New York and the niece was distraught. She wanted to stay with her aunt as she felt she didn’t have much time left to be with her but she had obligations at home that urgently needed her attention. I was so proud that I could confidently reassure her that her aunt would be well taken care of by the facility staff, and her Transitions nurse, aide, and volunteer staff. I had never felt more grateful for the Transitions organization than I did that day when I watched a tired, stressed, and anxious family member just relax and smile because she realized she had support and didn’t have to do everything alone.
I went to visit Miss Linda for the first time. What I found was a patient who was somewhat awake and aware but not really responding to anyone except with intermittent head nods. I really didn’t know her. I had met some of her family but wasn’t sure what to do during the visit but after a few minutes of my nervous monologue she reached for my hand and seemed very content to just hold on even when staff came in to check on her. We sat there quietly with me occasionally offering some small bit of reassurance or mentioning her family that I had met earlier and after about an hour and a half she released my hand and appeared to go to sleep.
I returned a few days later and Miss Linda was much more awake and talkative. I really didn’t expect she would remember the previous visit but as I started to introduce myself she interrupted me to say “you were the one who held my hand.” She started talking about what she had remembered from the previous couple of weeks when she had been medically distressed. She talked in great detail of various events and visits that had occurred although she didn’t have a clear idea of the timeline of when they occurred. In spite of being told many times people are aware of their surroundings even if they are not responding, I am still amazed.
I was lucky enough to have many more visits with Miss Linda and I hope I was able to enrich the last few months of her life as much as she truly enriched mine with humor and honesty.
-by Sandy S., volunteer