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When Everyone Stops to Care for a Sick Teenager

Everything beautiful and tragic and important in life in three paragraphs...

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From Hospice Austin's Christopher House Nurse Practitioner Christie Kremer: I have been awash in teenagers these last few weeks. It seems like every patient I have is far too young with kids taking the same AP tests my kid is taking. My heart has been hurting thinking about how a 17-year-old could complete a Physics test as her father lay dying. Or trying to plan a slumber party for a 16th birthday and hoping it isn't the day her mom dies. A15-year old, so mature, holding her mom's hand and asking how many milligrams we've gone up on the dose; another 15-year-old wise beyond her years as we sit in family conference talking about tube feedings. 

And sometimes we have patients who are teens themselves. We have a patient who held long cherished tickets to see Florence and The Machine last night with her BFF. All week through set back after set back she asked if she would be able to go. We tried to entertain the idea and it felt so scary and overwhelming for the medical staff and her mother that finally I said no, and my heart broke again. 

And then, through a remarkable team effort on the part of Christopher House and Hospice Austin Staff, we were able to make contact with Florence. My patient's mom was so nervous- will she really come? Is she here yet? She kept popping out of the room and checking. And Florence came. And her mom burst into tears of joy at the sight of her and Florence gave her a big hug. Florence walked around the corner to the patient's room -- stuffed to the gills with teen friends -- and there were shrieks and squeals and so much joyous music and singing and tears and tears and tears of grief and joy and hope and love and utter devastation and somehow simple kindness made everything better. Many thanks to my wonderful colleagues who made this happen and to Florence + The Machine for giving an amazing gift of kindness.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

There are moments when we prioritize relationships and compassion over everything else that seems important in life. How could we create more of those moments? How could we use the experience of being part of the end of life to spark more collaboration and compassion across every aspect of our lives and society?


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Photo of Ned Buskirk

This is lovely.

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