Hospice care: making dying a natural part of life

Hospice care:  making dying a natural part of life
By: Tiffany Sisson
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Dying is very much a part of living. Although, many of us don't like to talk or even think about it. When faced with a terminal illness, talking about death may increase your quality of life. That's when families often turn to hospice care.
Even though a cure is no longer possible, a promise to care for that loved one is. Rick Franklin made a promise, a promise to his wife, Ruthie Pennington. He kept that promise to the end. Ruthie died Wednesday, November 8th. For more than a year, Ruthie lived with Glioblastoma, one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer.
Ruthie Pennington's smile captures the meaning of her life! "She's such a beautiful person. Everybody loves Ruthie," exclaimed Franklin!
Including Lou Lundry, "She is my cousin. She's my sister, too."
The two are five years apart. Both have birthdays in March. "That's why we're so tight. We're so tight. We're pices. We swim around in everybody's lives," explained Lundry.
Both lost their husbands around the same time. "Eleven,12 o'clock at night, she's calling my name, I'm here. I will always be here," said Lundry.
Sitting by Ruthie's bedside is where Lundry and Ruthie's husband, Rick Franklin, now spend most of their time, watching a wife, mother, and best friend die from brain cancer. "I can't hardly stand it. Nobody knows until you have a loved one, that you can't help, that you've gone as far as you can go," said Lundry choking back tears.
Ruthie's life took a dramatic turn back in October of 2005. She was driving in the center divider, swerving in and out of the highway. Police pulled her over, thinking she was drunk. But, a trip to the emergency room showed a very different picture. The MRI scan led to a diagnosis of Glioblastoma with multiple formations. One very massive tumor, the size of a fist was literally crushing her brain. Her brain stem was being pushed to right, forming a curve around the mass. Doctors removed that tumor, and Ruthie's been paralyzed ever since.
Franklin said, "It's not been easy. It's been very hard. It's hard to watch her go from bad to worse, then get better, then be like this."
Franklin made a promise to Ruthie. When she got sick, he'd take care of her. "We are able to help them fulfill the promises that they've already given their family members when it gets so hard," explained Laura Wade, a volunteer coordinator with Legacy Hospice in Poplar Bluff.
Wade explained, "Hospice is a philosophy. When a patient and a family has decided that either the curative measures don't work any longer, or they've decided they don't want to go through that, they just want to be kept as comfortable as possible."
"Ruthie's been able to live in her own home, and have a pretty decent life. I mean, flowers, and visitors, and you know, be surrounded by her own pictures, friends. Hospice is a wonderful organization," said Franklin.
"This is where she wants to be. She did not want to go to a nursing home, and there's no way we're gonna do that. We're all gonna hang in here and help take care of her," said Lundry.
Ruthie's family gets help from a team at Legacy Hospice providing physical, emotional, and spiritual care. "Sometimes just having someone there who can tell you what you're feeling is normal, and what you're thinking is natural," explained Wade.
Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. It does not speed up or postpone death said Wade," It can be hard, and it can be difficult, and it can be sad at times, but when we're there helping them through this very natural and important part of life, it's also very rewarding."
While many of the people at Legacy Hospice are paid employees, they need volunteers to work either directly or indirectly with families like Ruthie's. If you'd like to learn more about Legacy Hospice call their office in Poplar Bluff, 573-776-6944.