Dear Covenant Foundation Supporter,
When I used to envision my wedding day, I never imagined my Mom not being there.
On February 17, 2015, my parents boarded a cruise ship to Mexico for their annual holiday. They loved to travel and wanted to see the world. After two days at sea Mom suffered a massive heart attack.
The medical team on board the cruise ship kept Mom stable until they reached Cabo San Lucas. She was air ambulanced to Guadalajara to undergo emergency triple bypass surgery.
Mom contracted a bacterial infection while in recovery, which made it impossible to wean her from the ventilator. It took three weeks for the medical team to get her stable enough to fly home.
Back in Edmonton, Mom was assessed and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Covenant Health’s Misericordia Community Hospital.
At this point, we were all still confident she would recover. Our focus was on getting Mom’s lungs strong enough to breath on their own again.
Mom and her team worked hard at this, but despite their best efforts, her progress would come to a standstill and go backwards.
While this was happening my boyfriend was planning a proposal. He knew how close the relationship between my parents and I was, so he went to them, in the hospital, to ask their blessing on marrying me.
It was a special moment for my parents when I called to tell them I said yes and we were engaged. Dad was at the Misericordia with Mom, so they could celebrate together. They were so happy for us.
It was now July. Mom had been fighting for almost four months to breathe on her own. Her goal was to get healthy and home in time to attend our wedding the following spring.
In August, Mom’s kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. Even with this setback, we remained optimistic and focused on getting her home.
In early September, the ICU team asked to meet with Dad to discuss Mom’s long-term prognosis. Dad sat at the table, his brother with him for support, and listened as the doctors told him Mom was not able to ever go home again. She was too weak, too sick, and her body was too tired from fighting for so long.
Mom’s initial response to this news was to keep fighting, because that is who she was: a fighter. But after a few days she said to Dad, “I’m done fighting.”
I was devastated by the thought of losing my Mom, especially as I planned my wedding. I had always envisioned shopping for wedding dresses with her and now this would never happen.
Then, a friend suggested I bring some dresses to Mom. When I spoke to the ICU staff about my idea, I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm to help make our dream a reality.
My Dad surprised me by making arrangements to have my hair and makeup done that day so once I was in “my dress” we could take wedding photos with Mom.
Mom was under infection control so I couldn’t go into her room while wearing the dresses, but the staff turned her bed to face the door and got a stool for me to stand on. This way, Mom could see me and vote on which dress she liked best. The ICU staff and other families even participated in the voting!
That night we had a living celebration of Mom’s life at her bedside, with two ministers from our church. It was a funeral for Mom that she could participate in. It was an emotional and heartbreaking day for all of us.
Over the next few days Mom and Dad reflected on photos and read stories they had written during their travels. Members from their church sang to Mom and played music she enjoyed. And Mom and I spent time talking about what she envisioned and hoped for me for my wedding day and my life as a wife and mother. Five days later, Mom passed away, peacefully, with Dad and I by her side.
The ICU staff kept her comfortable so she was pain free and not struggling for breath. They helped us make the most of Mom’s last week and ensured her final days were filled with love, comfort, and compassion. For that, we will be forever grateful.
In the end, Mom’s choice for my dress is the one I wore on my wedding day. During the ceremony we lit the same candle we had at the living celebration of Mom’s life.
It was hard to not have her with us on my wedding day. But thanks to the compassionate, caring team at Misericordia Community Hospital, she was still a big part of our special day.
Everyone deserves to spend their final days the way Mom did, surrounded by love, comfortable and pain free. We all deserve that dignity. Please consider making a gift to Covenant Foundation in support of end-of-life care and give patients like Mom, and families like mine, peace and comfort during those precious final days with loved ones.
Rebecca Henderson (nee: Spiers)
P.S. Donations to end-of-life care help give health care professionals what they need to provide the most compassionate care possible.
Learn more about Covenant Health's Palliative End-of-Life Care Institute.
A Leader in Compassionate End-of-Life Care
Every person deserves comfort and dignity at end-of-life. In 2016, 20,000 Alberta families
shared the end-of-life journey with a loved one. Many of these Albertans spent their last days in a Covenant Health hospital, hospice or a seniors care centre.
Through research, education, innovation and care delivery across the province, Covenant Health is working to help care teams work with families and their loved ones to provide the best possible quality of life and exceptional support, comfort and care as people face the end-of-life’s journey.
Covenant Health is recognized as a leader in palliative and end-of-life care in the province and beyond, supporting Albertans when they are at their most vulnerable.
Your support helps our teams to make sure those we serve experience dignity and comfort at end-of-life and to deliver caring and compassionate end-of-life moments like the one Rebecca shared with her mother.