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Birthday Wishes Fulfilled

Ted and Bertha “Bert” Ruch were married on June 24, 1949. For those doing the quick math, that is 72 years of marriage, which some might say is more than a lifetime together. They share a deep and true commitment to each other and will accept nothing less at the end of life. Theirs is a beautiful story of resilience and dedication, and we are honored to have earned their permission to share it in the hopes it may inspire others.

Just prior to Ted and Bert’s wedding 72nd anniversary, Ted was admitted to Hospice of North Ottawa Community with the goal of staying in his home, with Bert at his side through the end of his life. As Ted’s disease progressed, so too, did his needs and dependence on Bert, who soon began to struggle with exhaustion and her own health ailments. Our community hospice care team (RN Case Manager, Social Worker and Hospice Aide) realized this situation and quickly developed a plan to bring additional community hospice services into the home for Ted, as well as begin Palliative Care Services for Bert. Though the special couple never had children, they were surrounded by love and dedication from extended family members including nephew, Steve, and his spouse, Sandy, who did everything they could to honor Ted’s wishes of remaining at home. However the level of care Ted needed continued to escalate, and Bert’s exhaustion eventually led Ted agreeing to enter the Hospice Residence at Heartwood Lodge, in order to allow Bert the respite she needed. Unfortunately, throughout the process Bert’s health declined and she required a NOCHS EMS ambulance ride to our Emergency Department where she stayed for three days. The plan was to discharge Bert from the ER at NOCHS and then admit her to North Ottawa Care Center at Heartwood Lodge for rehabilitation services, which is right next door to the Hospice Residence where Ted was, then keep him there until safe community placement could be secured. While COVID restrictions would keep them from seeing one another for nearly two weeks, just being close-by brought them both tremendous solace.

During quarantine, Ted talked about how much he wanted to spend his 96th birthday with his bride. Because his birthday would occur within the quarantine window, our Hospice Staff had to get really creative. Our Hospice Director, Hospice House Supervisor, Hospice Medical Director, NOCC Director, and NOCC Director of Nursing collaborated to develop a safe, secure plan so that on Saturday, October 10, 2021 Ted’s birthday wish came true.  They celebrated his birthday “COVID style,” complete with balloons, banners, pictures, and a birthday cake (brought back to their rooms to enjoy) — masks and gowns included!

In health care, things can get complex quickly. Balancing the treatment plans, highly regulated policies and procedures, as well as the current uncertainties of the pandemic is difficult work. So much of our what we do is focused on medical outcomes that we can sometimes forget the importance of our patient’s wants, needs, and hopes. They are just as, if not more, important. As caregivers – regardless of whether we work at the bedside, in the Board Room, on an ambulance, or in the hospital or nursing home – it is more than a duty to care for the complete wellbeing of our patients, it’s an honor. The beauty of our health system has been and always will be the desire to care for AND about our patients, as well as our ability to see actually it through. The size of our system ensures we have the relationships in place to work quickly and creatively caring for the wholeness of our patients. On October 10, 2021 we saw that in action very clearly. It was a happy and fulfilling day for Ted and Bert, and a reinvigorating day for those of us who helped make it happen. A celebration for the ages, indeed.

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