Tag Archives: Broward Health

Our Follow-Up Story. Life after death: Couple’s story sparks change


Cartier gold-rimmed aviator bifocals, classic disco era. A pair of immaculate, brilliant-green Florsheim slipons, men’s size 7, worn once yearly — on St. Patrick’s Day — for more than three decades. Bathrobes still hanging on a hook.

It’s taken Chris MacLellan about three months to prepare himself for this moment, the sorting through of everything that his partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer, left behind when he died March 9 of esophageal cancer at age 83.

There are the memories, unresolved feelings of loss and a sense of emptiness in the Deerfield Beach home they’d shared for 11 years.

There are the surprises, like the handwritten note tucked inside one of Schiffer’s alphabetized address books: “To love someone is to see the face of God.”

“I think Richard intended me to find the note. I think he left it for me,” said MacLellan, 57.

And there’s the legacy. The couple had agreed to let the Sun Sentinel chronicle their final months together in hopes of bringing awareness to the special challenges that lesbian and gay seniors face at the end of life. Since their story, “In Sickness and In Health, ran April 13, MacLellan has been overwhelmed by the response.

MacLellan has seen everything from letters of support or condolence to health care institutions pledging policy revisions.

Many who read the couple’s story expressed surprise that health care rights are so connected with marriage rights. Some gay couples said they are now considering marrying, even though they live in states like Florida that do not recognize such unions.

“I appreciate the people who have reached out, the kindness. It’s hard to believe that two ordinary people, who lived in a little house in Deerfield Beach, could make such an impact,” said MacLellan, who works as senior services coordinator for SunServe, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning social service agency in Wilton Manors.

‘Who are you?’

In the story, MacLellan described rushing Schiffer to Broward Health North’s emergency room in September and being ignored by intake staff while they questioned his partner.

“When we first got to the ER, [the medical staff] paid 100 percent attention to Richard and didn’t really acknowledge my presence,” MacLellan said at the time. “When I tried to speak up, and give them more of the full story about what was happening, they said, ‘Who are you?'”

With Broward Health Staff

Speaking to upper level management at Broward Health North. Photos: Carline Jean, Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

A day after the story’s publication, MacLellan received a call from Broward Health North CEO Pauline Grant.

She invited MacLellan to speak at the hospital’s next management meeting.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t do a better job,” Grant said. “The emergency department is our front door, and we need to treat all of our families and patients with courtesy and respect.”

On May 15, MacLellan sat in a hospital conference room surrounded by almost 50 doctors, nurses and administrators, calmly retelling his experiences and taking questions. The atmosphere was serious but respectful.

“This is not right, and we are taking it as an opportunity to do better,” Grant said at the meeting.

Now, Broward Health North is working with SunServe to design sensitivity training for hospital employees, starting with those in the emergency room. In the past year, SunServe has been training nurses and health care workers in how to best treat LGBT patients, as well as analyze a facility’s practice for bias — such as using only “single, married and divorced” on records. SunServe has certified two assisted-living centers and a home health agency but had never worked with a hospital before, said the agency’s administrative director, Bryan Wilson.

Talking to Broward Health

Photos: Carline Jean Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

MacLellan will become one of the program’s trainers this summer, working with Broward Health North and other facilities.

There are few formal initiatives to make the health care system more welcoming to gay and lesbian patients, said Catherine Thurston, senior director of programs for SAGE, a national advocacy organization for LGBT elders that has helped train about 4,000 health care providers nationwide. More facilities and providers are willing to take steps, she added, as they recognize gay and lesbian seniors are among their patients.

 

 

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Approaching The Final Destination


I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love ~ Mother Teresa

With TLO’s recent diagnosis that his cancer has spread to multiple parts of his body,  I have to admit this news, along with intense Caregiving over the past month, has put me in a position where I have hit the wall with LifeChangesblogging. While  I’ve learned over the past two years  that writing about TLO’s bout with esophageal cancer has provided a great deal of comfort for both of us, I now find it interesting that writing about the end stages of our Caregiving journey to be a tad more difficult. 

And that is precisely where we are at in our Caregiving journey, we are at the end-stage.

TLO was admitted to Gold Coast Hospice as an inpatient  on Monday, March 3rd.  We are in a small 8 unit facility under the umbrella of Broward Health. With the mindset that we were going to inpatient care Hospice-1“just for a few days for an evaluation and re-set of his medications;”  we have since learned that God and TLO’s body had other plans.

 The last thing he said to me on Monday night was…”Please go home and get some rest, I will be OK here and we’ll see each other in the morning.”  Reluctantly I agreed with him and headed home.  Now knowing that this is going to be our  last lucid conversation we have on this journey is fitting, for in  his time of strife, his  concern and love for me was first and foremost in his mind. We tend to share that similar trait when caring for each other.

TLO has been resting comfortably in our hospice suite since Tuesday; in and out of consciousness, his little body is ravished by cancer.   “We don’t know how this man has lived so long with the amount of cancer that is 1385583_607513719290066_905165614_n (1)inside of him,” the hospice doctor said to me Friday. “It is only by the grace of God and the love that the two of you have that has kept this man alive.” The Doctor’s words are comforting because it has taken me a few days to get beyond the quick transition from our Monday evening conversation, to finding him resting peacefully since my arrival on Tuesday morning. I suspect that he needed that time alone on Monday night moving into Tuesday morning, so that he could rest and prepare for his journey.   

TLO_Sis Feb 13

TLO with my sister Sissy, Feb 11, 2014

While in the midst of Caregiving, we often lose sight of what is transpiring right in front of us because we are so intent on service and care. Trips for radiation become routine because that is something that is just a part of our day?  With one of my sisters here helping us for the past month, I’ve come to realize that what I might think is a routine day, is totally off the charts by normal standards. I’m sure most family caregivers can get in touch with that. 

“If you could look inside his body you would understand what is going on inside of him” was another comment the hospice doctor said to me on Friday.  This ‘trip’ has been hard for me to accept because I am so used to him just getting up and continuing on.  He is such a fighter! Yet this ‘trip ‘ is just a little bit different because he has acknowledged that he is tried, he has acknowledged that he is ready and from our previous conversations,  he knows that I am going to be safe.  So in just a few short hours, I have had to learn how to separate my emotions from the reality that we face; TLO was able to do that after I left on Monday night. In fact, he had prepared for this day longer than I have ever realized.

The Mad Hatters

Chris and TLO at SunServe’s Hat and Garden Party 2013

I have had to put into perspective that this journey just did not start on Monday of this week, this journey started over three years ago in a little Greek restaurant in Indianapolis when there was the first indication that something might be wrong with his throat.  Through all the tests and tribulations of the last three years, not to mention the original diagnosis of 3 to 4 months to live in 2011, I’d say we have had a pretty darn good run at it.  Up until recently, we have had more good days and bad, and along the way on this journey, we have met so many wonderful friends from around the world who simply ask…”How’s TLO”.  The Caregiving community is so vast, so strong and so very comforting;  Where would we have been without you!

TLO is just mighty fine my friends!  He is resting peacefully, and we have been able to communicate through touch and some words.  He now gets to run the show and call the shots. Actually, he’s been doing that for quite some time, I’ve just been here proud to be along for the ride.  Right now I just want to be his partner, holding him close, caressing and kissing him while telling him that I love him with an everlasting love.  His squeeze of my hand gives me strength and helps take my sadness away.

You seeCancer is not winning here.  Love is winning here.

The Bow Tie Guys

 

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It’s Never Too Late To Start Over


We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated!~Maya Angelou

TLO_Certificate

I graduated from radiation treatments!

Our second bout of Cancer started to unfold when we were discharged from Imperial Point Medical Center in early October with the news that TLO’s cancer had entered his spine.   It was a somber drive home that warm Saturday afternoon knowing that three tumors were lurking on his spine;  the added ordeal of facing more radiation just exasperated the diagnosis. Those first few days home after the diagnosis  was quite difficult… For both of us.  I’m still not sure what was worse; the revelation of what was inside of him, or the anticipation of starting the rigorous treatments that were in front of us?

Caregivers know that through all the turmoil, we hope for a ray of light toHoldTight shine through our Caregiving day, to take the edge off so to speak.  Our ray of light happened this week as TLO completed his six weeks of radiation treatments.   Those six weeks were like riding a roller coaster, or maybe one of those amusement rides that spin you upside-down.  (I always hated the ones that went upside-down)  It is hard to get a handle on your day when your day is in constant motion.

Never too LateDuring these last six weeks, there has never been two days alike; Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We wake up each day not knowing how the day will enfold; Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We look back at these past six weeks and wonder, “how did we get through this mess;” Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We really don’t know what lies ahead of us; Cancer kind of does that, We’ve learned!  It’s never too late to start your day over;  Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned!

Completing radiation treatments is  significant because it allows us to start Certificate side (2)over again.  There are no more treatments, nothing else to do other than to let the healing process start!     Sure, there will be a follow-up  MRI and CT scan to see the results of the radiation.  However, we have no control over what those results will entail.  We can only control how we feel, and how we will deal with those results.  

There is no doubt that this round  radiation has taken its toll on TLO.  For him, dealing with going to radiation on a daily basis is more difficult than dealing with the fact that he has cancer.    I find that revelation difficult to understand, but so thought-provoking!  It’s important to remember that we are wearing different shoes on this journey.

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 As we move into a different phase of our journey, we continue to hope for a gentle breeze at our back.  We’ve done what we could do to combat the tumors, we’ve made the proper adjustments to our care team and we are thankful for the great staff at the South Florida Radiation Oncology in Coconut Creek and Emerald Elite Senior Home Health Care in Wilton Manors .  I’m grateful to the Executive Director at SunServe, Mark Ketcham and my colleagues at work for their support and understanding.  Our extended family at Caregiving.com, where would we be without you?

As a Caregiver, we often think that we can go at it alone, that we don’t need any help.   While we have the ability to start our day over, it makes it easier to start our Caregiving day over when we have passengers to help  guide us through the journey.  I’m thankful for our Care Team!

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

cjmbtr (1)

Be A Healthy Caregiver’ is on hiatus until January 2014 while ‘TLO’ is undergoing radiation treatments.  To listen to  archived episodes of our show, simply click here! 

Christopher MacLellan is a Certified Senior Advisor, the coordinator of senior services for SunServe Social Services and the host of ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’ on Blog Talk Radio.  ©ThePurpleJacket

 

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Filed under Cancer, cancer treatments, caregiver, Caregiving

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