Janice had come to terms with her disease. The swelling in her legs and the shortness of breath were overwhelming. Her gasping for air with almost every movement made the sedentary life her only option. Her family members had long since moved away or died.
She was alone.
The current bout of heart failure had been severe enough to land her in the hospital again. The paramedics shook their heads in disgust as they hauled her out of her cluttered, cockroach-infested apartment. The ride to the emergency room was her first trip outside of the confines of her four small walls since the last hospitalization.
Janice wasn’t depressed; she was just tired. Her heart could no longer support the mass of edematous flesh that hung wantonly from her body. The cardiologist confirmed what she had long expected. The damage to the cardiac muscle was too great. The floppy organ was pumping at less than 10% the normal strength. The blood confirmed another heart attack.
It was with grave faces that the team of doctors gathered to give Janice her options. Her prognosis was poor. She would likely die in weeks, maybe months. They waited solemnly for what they expected would be a melancholy reaction.
But they were wrong.
Janice finally received the certainty that she was looking for. Her struggles would end soon. She gleefully signed the hospice papers and the social worker helped her arrange to end her apartment lease and dispose of her belongings. She would go to the nursing home with hospice support, and die quietly and comfortably.
Although the nursing home was anything but luxurious, the staff was kind and tentative. Janice took the pain medication that was prescribed by the hospice nurse and looked forward to her weekly visits from the social worker and chaplain.
And strangely, something started to happen. The morphine controlled her shortness of breath. The swelling in her legs began to recede. She felt renewed energy and vigor. The doctor at the facility suggested that Janice try a little physical therapy, and the hospice team agreed that better mobility would improve her quality of life.
Janice flourished. Before long she was able to walk in the hall with a walker. Her legs were as skinny as ever. Miracle above miracle, she was no longer short of breath. Janice was ecstatic.
Until the day the hospice nurse informed her that she would no longer qualify for their services. Her improvement was too great. She would probably live for more than six months after all.
Janice was anything but thrilled. She had counted on approaching death when making all her arrangements. She was running out of money. She gave up her apartment, the only home she had had for the last decade.
And there was no family or friends left to call, and give the good news.