20 years old

  1. My cousin died this week. It's okay. My family in dealing with it very well. He had just turned 20 years old. His life had been one of sickness and suffering and I'm seeing the situation as an end of suffering rather than a grand tragedy. Sean led a relatively normal life in ThunderBay Ontario until he was about 7 years old. He began to develop brain tumors and his life became a series of trips to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. He endured many series of chemo, surgeries to remove tumors, brain ischemia, shunts being inserted and removed. Through it all, he managed to graduate from Highschool, and even worked at a restaurant for a little while before he became too ill to care for himself. He did spend the last year of his life in a state of helplessness and a morphene fog. His mother, my cousin Joanie, is also a nurse. Although I haven't seen him for 3 years (I live 9 hours away by car), I remember him as being a wonderful kid. He was a happy person and got a lot of joy out of his life. I guess he really transcended his suffering to the point where he was not about his illness and disabilities. For this I am happy. My family in ThunderBay are really grieving.

    Anyway, my point. This has all made me quite philosophical. You see, when I was 19, I lost a friend who had just turned 20. In fact, this month has been the 7th year aniversary of A.J.'s death. I'm a lot better now, but Novembers used to be a very hard month for me. She too lived a life of chronic illness. She spent the last 6 months of her life on continuous IV pump, but she was very good at hiding her illness. Well, hiding is a very strong word. She was A.J.! She was fun and full of life and tended to get into a lot of trouble because she was so impulsive with her fun seeking. I loved this about her, because she seemed even more alive than I was. Well she was always a bit of an enigma to me, there are still things about her that are a mystery. Her illness was not what she was about. I really was unaware of how sick she was (of course, now in retrospect I am able to recognize the signs better). She finally died of heart failure and this was a shock and a surprize to me.

    Anyway, this has all led me to my present facination with chronic disease and the human spirit.
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  2. 21 Comments

  3. by   Tweety
    Sometimes chronic illness seem to bring out the best in people, especially children and young adults.

    The human spirit can be amazing.

    Hugs to you and thanks for sharing.
  4. by   Heather333
    My prayers are with you.........

    Heather
  5. by   adrienurse
    Nah, It's okay. I don't need sympathy. Just grateful for the chance to talk about it.
  6. by   JonRN
    Glad to be part of the allnurses gang that is here for you Red. I used to work with teen-agers and young adults a long time ago, and saw some amazing things from kids that were dying. Sometimes they touch others in ways they can't even imagine.
  7. by   RN always
    Thanks for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and your family.
  8. by   aus nurse
    I know what you mean adri. It is truly amazing what people can endure and still be the most wonderful humans. Like 3rdShift Guy said, the human spirit is awesome. Some go under with their disease and become the disease process but some seem to soar above it and live their lives in the most fullfilling way. I guess it has to do with their spirit and personality to begin with?
    Anyway, thankyou for sharing, it is something I reflect on too and
    it always puts things in perspective for me....and makes me count my blessings. Hugs to you.
  9. by   nursegoodguy
    I think no matter how much illness played a part in someone's life it is still hard on you when they die... The spirit of course does not die but... sometimes it is hard to remember that when we are so use to seing a physical manifestation of the person.
    My thoughts are with you my dearest...
  10. by   OBNURSEHEATHER
    I'm sorry for your loss Adrienne.

    A coworker of mine has a grandson that was born with gastroschesis (hope I spelled that right). He's had surgery after surgery, including a bowel transplant, that he is rejecting. The docs have told the family he's not "sick enough" to go on the list again, they have to wait for his liver to fail, then he can go on a bowel-liver transplant list. He is never without his backpack that carries all of his IV lines. He's never, ever, eaten a normal meal. On his birthday, they ordered him a burger. He would chew it, and then discreetly spit it out.

    He thinks he's the luckiest, healthiest little 8 year old boy in the world, because he doesn't know any different. And it's a big wake-up call to all the things we take for granted. Look at all of the simple things this little boy has never known, and he's OK with it. He's such a special little boy, and I'm honored to know him and his family.

    Your post just reminded me of this. Hope you don't mind me sharing.

    Heather
  11. by   SmilingBluEyes
    You may not need sympathy,but a good dose of caring and concern dont' hurt. That you brought it up here says it bothers you...and so it should . I am truly sorry for the whole family in this time of tragic loss. My thoughts are w/you all (and yes, my sympathy, too).
  12. by   recnurse1
    Sorry about the bad news, Adrie.... my heart goes out to you and to your family. Strength to all , and hope the family can realize that he is no longer suffering.
  13. by   Mkue
    aus nurse said it.. " the human spirit is awesome".

    Peaceful memories and blessings to you and the family. :angel2:
  14. by   BadBird
    Adriene,

    Sorry for your loss. Isn't it amazing how some of the sickest people are the sweetest, really enjoying life everyday, and take nothing for granted. I sometimes wonder when I see that in my patients if they have moved on to the acceptance stage and just enjoy what life has to offer not fearing the end. Other patients with minimal health problems complain about everything, I just want to yell SHUT UP, go down the hall and see someone who is really sick. The human spirit is truly amazing.

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