In February of 2019, the wife of one of our patients addressed the staff at Hospice East Bay to express her gratitude for the care we provided to her husband of over 60 years. This is what she said that day:

Good afternoon. I’m Sandy and I would like to begin by thanking my niece Susan, also Susan Levitt and all of you for the opportunity to come here today to express in person, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your hospice services.

My initial perception of hospice was that it was a place where one comes to die. With that thought in mind, I was totally unprepared for the level of dedication, kindness and compassion shown by every person we came in contact with during my husband’s illness.

John, my husband, was hospitalized several times in late fall of 2017 for infection problems. He was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (also known as MDS) and later diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia—both conditions where the bone marrow produces irregular and poorly formed red blood cells, white cells and platelets. As a result, he was given injections to stimulate the bone marrow and ultimately in December of 2017, John started receiving blood transfusions twice weekly of both red cells and platelets. This continued for approximately ten months.

In early October of 2018, John’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he experienced extreme weakness and become prone to infections. At this point, again after several more hospital stays and bouts of rehab, John’s hematologist and oncologist discontinued the transfusions and referred John to hospice. Nothing more in the way of treatment could be done for him. That same day, the hospice nurse came to our home and explained their care and treatment and that I would be caring for John at home.

After the first night, I realized I was not emotionally or physically able to care for a large six foot tall man who was very susceptible to falls. In a panic, the following morning I frantically called Susan, my niece, (who was in Seattle at the time). Her immediate response was that the Bruns House operated by Hospice East Bay was the only place for her Uncle John to be cared for. With Susan Levitt’s help and that of Randy, the liaison nurse, John was transported and admitted that afternoon, October 24th to the Bruns House in Alamo.

From the moment my son David and I walked through the door at Bruns House, we could feel the care and compassion of everyone we met. During the admission process, we were very well briefed as to the Bruns care and treatment plan for John. We were most impressed that they wanted John to be treated with dignity and respect and their main concern was to keep him as comfortable as possible and free from pain. At the same time, they emphasized that caring for the family was equally important. They were there to care not only for the patient but to be there for our family as well.

Bruns House LabyrinthWe met with several nurses and members of the staff, including Elizabeth, John’s social worker, and Dr. Rana, the physician caring for John. Both my son and I cannot say enough about the care and concern of Dr. Rana. She was always available to answer our questions and her dedication and concern for John’s comfort was beyond our expectations. The entire staff was there to make whatever time John had as comfortable as possible, including letting us provide John his favorite brandy and rocky road ice cream, both of which John declined, but it was a victory for him nonetheless.

John was a very private, proud and independent person and he had so many periods of being combative. These periods were always met with “not to worry, we are here to help and we understand his frustration and longing to go home.” The level of care and concern for John never wavered. Even when it came time for us to leave, my son and I always felt John was in excellent, caring and very capable hands.

We want to give a special thanks to Ben, on the spiritual care team. He came by several times with his guitar and sat with John. He sang and played some of the old beloved hymns, including “How Great Thou Art,” one of John’s favorites, and I know Ben indeed lifted John’s spirits.

I particularly want to thank Hospice East Bay for providing bereavement support services and grief counseling, both of which I will be availing myself of in the coming weeks. John and I were married almost 61 years, and as his caregiver for the last several years, taking care of him was my entire goal. Now, I look forward to using those services as I grieve the loss of my dear husband. Also of value to me was the booklet provided by Hospice East Bay “When the Time Comes - A Caregiver’s Guide.” I found it to be very helpful in dealing with the final stages of life.

Even after John passed away on Tuesday, October 31st, after six days in hospice care, David, Susan and I were again surrounded by the staff with many hugs and heartfelt expressions of love, support and sympathy, words fail me as to how much that meant.

In summary, hospice was the best possible choice for us to make for John during this difficult time. David and I wish to thank each and every one of you for your kind and compassionate care of our loved one. You are indeed God’s angels. May God bless each of you. Thank you.