Understanding Hospice and other 'End of Life' Issues

On February 11, 2006, I lost my dad (Martin Ebon). Just 17 days later, my girlfriend, Jessica, lost her father (Irv Kluger).

Just weeks later, Jessica would lose her closest friend, Elle Silver, to a rare blood disease.

There was a lot more to that year. Almost none of it was good. We learned more than our share of life lessons, particularly about ‘End of Life’ issues.

Sadly, our fathers never met. My dad, a career author, and Jessica’s dad, a world-class jazz drummer, would have talked each other’s ear off.

They both would experience heart attacks at hospitals. Irv relocated to rehab, but the damage from the heart attack was too severe to allow for a comeback. What they shared in this odd convergence of experience was hospice.

When it was clear that my dad had lost his will to live, I met with a case worker at the hospital and she recommended moving him to Nathan Adelson Hospice (North side of Las Vegas) to live out his remaining days in peace and relieved of pain.

When a parent is shouting at you that he wants to die, the experience is horrific. Clearly, he had lived his life to completion.

He had outlived my mom by a decade, and was ready to be with her, without any extraordinary steps to extend his life. Weeks earlier, he had put these decisions in my hands, and I assured him that his remaining time would be made comfortable.

The next morning, a Thursday, daddy was transported to Nathan Adelson. Saturday morning, I received a call from a staff member that daddy’s time was short. His breathing was labored, and it was suggested that we should get there, quickly, so we could be present for his passing.

We raced up Buffalo Drive, in time for Jessica to sing a calming rendition of La Vie En Rose to him. We spoke to him and minutes later, he drifted into eternity.

Just nine days later, it was Jessica’s dad that would be moved to Nathan Adelson Hospice (East side of Las Vegas). Though his heart was damaged beyond repair, Irv was still conscious and alert when I came to see him, the evening of February 20th. Nathan Adelson has adjacent sleeping areas and sofa beds so family members can stay near, round-the-clock, if they choose.

And for the next week, Jessica kept vigil, almost continuously. She was at his side when he passed, early in the morning hours of February 28th. And again, as traumatic as our experiences were, it was made calmer for both of us, and our dads, by the incredibly gentle hospice staff members.

Shockingly, our fresh experience with hospice care would be put into motion, all too soon. Just weeks later, Jessica’s friend Elle Silver would enter the hospital for a blood treatment and was not released. Elle had contracted a virus which raced through her depleted immune system. Just a week later, Elle was near death. Her brother was distraught beyond words, and Jessica shared our recent experiences. Together, they visited hospice, and he agreed that moving her there would be best.

Elle was transported on a Saturday morning. Jessica had a singing engagement that evening. Afterwards, we went to be bedside at Elle’s hospice. The chaos of the hospital, left behind, and peace surrounded Elle. We went back home, and not an hour later, received a phone call, telling us that Elle had passed away.

Just 14 hours in hospice, but those were important hours, spent in tranquility.

We consider ourselves fortunate that our fathers and friend would complete their time on earth with both dignity and peace. One cannot control sudden tragedy, but at least in these cases we were with our loved ones and had the knowledge that they were no longer in pain or distress.

We have eternal gratitude to Nathan Adelson Hospice for their compassion and grace. The kindness of their staff members was immeasurable.

Andy Ebon
First-Generation New Yorker

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