The Art of Hanging-In There


A Hospice Social Worker’s Take on Inside Curveballs


Nothing cuts the early morning silence like a pager going off. When you're a hospice social worker, the sound is an electronic SOS. Someone's in trouble! I'm instantly awake. A telephone number flashes on the pager display, giving the room a pale green luminescence. I dial the number, adrenaline racing, wondering what I'm about to walk into at this hour.

"Scott? Is that you?" I recognize our on-call nurse's voice. Usually, she's as calm as a field of untracked snow, but tonight she sounds nervous.

I draw in a deep breath, hoping she'll do the same. "What's going on, Rita?"

"It's horrible. . . . She's bleeding to death."

She gives me the patient's name and a quick rundown: a 35-year-old woman with throat cancer, receiving home hospice care, who has a husband and two kids, ages 8 and 10. A week or two earlier, the tumor broke through the skin on her neck. An hour ago, it tore her carotid artery. Now blood is trickling out, and there's no way to stop it. Rita says she thinks the woman may live another 30 minutes, 45 tops-just enough time for me to get there.

The night air is cold as I walk to my car. I can see my breath rise into the autumn darkness. The stars are beautiful-pinpricks of light through a black canvas. As I start the engine, I think of a story I once read about a Native American people who believed that each star was a footprint left by a soul on its journey into the heavens.

It's tempting to try to distract yourself when…

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4 Comments

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 7:23:57 PM | posted by Tina Oshinski
Thank you for a touching,thought provoking article.It certainly didn't "strike out".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 6:05:22 PM | posted by Susan OLeary
The is an uplifting and inspiring article with a poignant and pragmatic message! Using the personal anecdote of "hitting an inside curveball" as a metaphor to illustrate the importance of patience, courage, and perseverance is brilliant and reflects the author's profound insight into the "human journey". In addition, I really enjoyed this author's writing style and would welcome the chance to read more from J. Scott Janssen. I highly recommend this article.

Friday, September 7, 2012 3:22:11 AM | posted by Linda H. Rose
Thank you for this beautiful and insightful article. I have worked in hospice care as a therapist for 20 years and the last 8 years with supporting children and adolescents through their grief. This article is so affirming and I highly recommend it, especially to those in the death and dying field.

Sunday, October 7, 2012 5:29:33 PM | posted by judyjack
Wonderful article. Will read this magazine more often.

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