Respecting wishes leads to a peaceful end

Marlene Tanner’s mom knew what she wanted as soon as she arrived at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital emergency room. Emilia Schamber, 96, had fallen in Marlene’s bathroom early on an August 2016 morning and broke her upper arm while visiting from Provost.

“It was one of those freak things. It was a severe break. Considering her age, risk and her desire as well, she did not want to have surgery. The orthopedic surgeon said they would wait and see if it was something that could heal on its own,” says Marlene.

While waiting for an inpatient bed, Emilia was given medication to help with her severe pain, and the nursing staff helped turn her to make her feel more comfortable. She began to bleed internally because of her arm. Her physicians knew what course to take because of her explicit instructions.

Emilia Schamber chose not to continue with care after severely breaking her arm in August 2016.

“She had no desire to go on living. She had made peace with everything. She just wanted compassionate care and to pass away. She made that very clear to all the healthcare members,” says Marlene.

She adds her mother wanted to join her husband, Johnny, who died when he was 89. They had been married for more than 60 years.

“She said, 'No, please don’t do anything for me. I just want to go and be with my Johnny,’” says Marlene.

She noticed how the nursing staff in the emergency department really wanted to care for her mother.

“They knew they had an elderly lady in their care that they really couldn’t accommodate the way they wanted to. It made it very difficult for them. They couldn’t move her on that stretcher to a bed where they knew she would be more comfortable. Yet, I could see their compassion,” she says.

Emilia was transferred from emergency to a hospital unit once it was apparent she was not going to be stable enough to handle a transfer to Provost for rehabilitation.

“My biggest fear was her being in an ambulance and not being able to tolerate that journey. I wanted her to stay at the Grey Nuns as long as possible until she was absolutely solid to go. The physician said, ‘No, she isn’t going anywhere and we’re going to respect her wishes,’” says Marlene.

Marlene, who is a nurse by background, had experience in critical care. She had been around people who were dying or had died. But it was her first time sitting by someone minute by minute as their life was ending.

Her niece wanted to comfort her grandmother and suggested that a Tibetan singing bowl be played by one of her friends. The nurses agreed to allow the bowl to be used.

Emilia Schamber celebrates her birthday with her children at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

“There was complete calm, peace and serenity amongst everyone. That was completely amazing. I saw it in my mom as well. She was completely relaxed. She was at peace,” says Marlene.

In her last days, the nurses brought her a cake for her birthday and she got a visit from the priest who gave her the last rites.

“I was so happy. She had a very strong faith. It was such a good experience,” says Marlene of the treatment at the Grey Nuns.

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