Death and Dying (Part 3)

You can read parts 1 and 2 of this story here and here.

Getting a new job

After volunteering with the ambulance service and helping with the bookkeeping, I was offered a full-time position working ambulance in the beautiful Black Hills.

I was so excited, I shed a few tears and gave a huge hug to the manager as I said yes! My dream came true.

Working ambulance, I learned more about the human component of life and death.

I learned that it wasn’t just the patient we were treating or comforting. There was also their family.

That usually didn’t happen until we were at the hospital. They often felt lost and alone.

Things started to change

In April 2007, much of the country was stunned by the shooting at Virginia Tech, which was on TV non-stop. I watched it at the clinic/hospital where I was diagnosed with COPD, with the rest of the patients and some staff.

No one understood how I felt. I was a bit unnerved and couldn't figure out what to do with this information.

There are so many people with COPD that I talk to and share with. Some have become family and wonderful friends. Their families have as well.

Searching the internet about COPD is common for most people. I searched other COPD sites as well.  I just wasn't sure about the sites.

Starting my own COPD community

I asked if others were lost, misunderstood, and alone. Also, if they had COPD, asthma, or another lung disease.

I asked if they needed a friend. Then I provided a link with a message to join us at COPD Friends for Friends. People came, and we chatted.

Feeling like an odd duck, I didn’t understand enough about COPD, even with my medical background. I was intimidated to be next to respiratory therapists and other doctors.

Links to sites with information about COPD, asthma, and other lung diseases were added. Eventually, other administrators were added.

Then closed sites were added, where people could talk privately. Helping others, there is a passion for doing so. It's a good place.

One extraordinary woman went to emergency. She had a cold and wasn’t feeling well.

I don’t remember how long she was in the hospital. She might have been there a week, and she died there. I couldn’t believe that a person could die from a cold.

This woman had many friends on various sites. Much of my time was spent comforting the others.

I learned more about COPD in general just by listening. Eventually, I met her daughter.

She loved her mom so much and couldn’t believe she was gone. We chatted several times a day. I knew she was fine when she didn't show up often.

Meeting people in the community

I’ve talked with many of them. This could be about their fear from the early stages of COPD to their final stage. Some I’ve talked to as they were going to the emergency department at their hospital, and some are being transported to a higher grade hospital.

Even to a nursing home on hospice. Talking when they are en route seems to give some peace. One person touched me. He was feisty as could be.

One day I needed to check in with him, to talk to him. He said, “You are freaking me out. You always search out people that are going to die.” I assured him that I just wanted to say hi.

We talked about that, relationships, and more. It was great getting to know some of his family members online.

Soon after, he passed away. More and more, I talk with people one on one.

They message me. It’s nice getting to know people this way. Their families as well.

It began to feel like I was in the comfort business. That was okay and gave me a purpose.

Everyone needs someone they can talk with. No matter what stage they are in or where they are in the family.

As I get to know people, I go through a grieving process when they pass away. One time, we had three people pass away within a couple of weeks.

It was devastating. I didn’t want to upset the members on the COPD sites or even the admins. I avoided all COPD sites for a few days and took "me" time.

It’s strange; people always think I’m so strong. I’m learning to remind them that I’m human.

My family helps to keep me balanced, most of the time, anyway. As for myself, I'm not afraid of dying of COPD or other lung problems.

However, there are times when I am very scared about dying. Those times are the fears that I won’t be here for my family or that I might miss out on some part of their lives. I know they will get along fine without me.

My fear: Time is going so fast that it scares me. Getting older scares me. Will my family be okay without me? Deep down, I know they will.

In the event of an emergency:

  • Provide a list or packet with all of this information.
  • DNR: Do Not Resuscitate Order, as well as other paperwork. For the doctor and hospital.
  • Are you a donor? Be sure to put that on your driver's license and the information packet for the family.
  • List your emergency information. Include doctor's names, phone numbers, and addresses. List your health information. Do that for physical health, as well as mental health. Those people can treat you and best advise each of us.
  • Provide a medication list.
  • Show your contacts, their phone numbers, email address, and actual address.
  • Designate where your pets are to go. Talk to your family and others, and see who would be interested in taking your pet when the time comes.
  • Provide information for your insurance policies: Health, Life, House, Vehicles, and more.
  • Banking information.
  • Retirement information.
  • Social Security, Medicare information.
  • Post Office Box if there is one.
  • Safe deposit box information if you have one.
  • Figure out what to do with your "stuff." Do your family members want them?

I do have another family, and they are here in our community. The people here have big hearts.

They put that heart into the articles, illustrations, and behind-the-scenes. We all genuinely care.

Know that grieving is a process that each of us will go through. However, it might be different for each of us.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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