The Patient Voice

How My Mom’s Death Changed My Mind About End-Of-Life Care

By Charles Ornstein   My father, sister and I sat in the near-empty Chinese restaurant, picking at our plates, unable to avoid the question that we’d gathered to discuss: When was it time to let Mom die? It had been a grueling day at the hospital, watching — praying — for any sign that my mother would emerge from her coma. Three days earlier she’d been admitted for nausea; she had a nasty cough and was having trouble keeping food down. But while a nurse tried to insert a nasogastric tube, her heart stopped. She required CPR for nine minutes. Even before I flew into town, a ventilator...

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A Failure to Rescue – Donna Bajone

A Failure to Rescue – Donna Bajone

Some families have a member who radiates such innate happiness and light that she illuminates the lives of everyone fortunate enough to live in her orbit. For my family, that person was my late sister Donna. Donna was born in 1968 with a congenital heart defect and spent the first two years of her life struggling with bouts of heart failure, pneumonia, and the inability to grow and thrive. Her only hope was open heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, a ventricular septal defect, and mitral valve insufficiency. We were fortunate to live near Stanford University, where prominent...

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Our Goodbye to Kate

Our Goodbye to Kate

Eulogy read at the services for Katherine “Kate” Hallisy: At this difficult time we take solace in the outpouring of support for our family because the years have taught us that grief shared is grief diffused. It is time again to draw on the many strengths that sharing Kate’s life has given us. She taught us to search for our happiness, to choose to see the good in every person and every situation, and to treasure every small kindness, every tender mercy – because there were many. Because of Kate, we lived with everyday miracles and her glorious life always led us to the...

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Grief into Action

Grief into Action

Kate’s treatment for her recurrent osteosarcoma immersed us in a second round of aggressive chemotherapy treatments. We checked into the hospital every few weeks with her pillow, an array of stuffed animals, and a notebook to start writing down what we had learned about staying safe in the hospital. We both felt the need to document our hard-won lessons, and over time, our efforts segued into a plan for a book. Kate lost her battle with cancer in February, 2000, but she lived to ring in the millennium, which was one of her last goals. We have dozens of photos of Kate and her brothers wearing...

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Katherine “Kate” Hallisy

Katherine “Kate” Hallisy

In October of 1989 our second child, Kate, was diagnosed at five months of age with bilateral retinoblastoma after malignant tumors were discovered in the retina of each eye. Normally, retinoblastoma is a treatable and curable type of cancer. The doctors were encouraging and told us optimistically, “If your child has to develop cancer, this is the kind to have.” Unfortunately, this was not to be our daughter’s destiny. Kate’s disease was extraordinarily aggressive and she experienced several recurrences, which necessitated the removal of her right eye and two years of chemotherapy and...

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