Joe Smith, 1989-2008
‘Amazing kid’ and palliative care/hospice patient
"He was an amazing kid. While he was the one with the illness, we were the ones receiving constant love from him."
Palliative Care and Hospice Brought Comfort to Patient and Family
Though born with spinal bifida and Arnold Chiari syndrome, Joe Smith, son of Lori and Bryan Smith of Gladwin, Michigan, tackled life with enthusiasm.
Joe enjoyed running and playing, biking, games, church youth group, his siblings, parents and pets. Due to the natural progression of spinal bifida and strokes that accompanied the disease, Joe began using a wheelchair when he was in fifth grade.
In ninth grade, Joe experienced a stroke that led to a steady decline in his health. He embraced Game Cube, Wii Bowling, his laptop and pets as sources of entertainment and joy.
“He was an amazing kid,” explained his mother, Lori. “While he was the one with the illness, we were the ones receiving constant love from him.”
In 2005, Joe’s family called MidMichigan Home Care to explore palliative care. MidMichigan Home Care designed its home-based palliative care program to help patients cope with the symptoms of chronic illness– physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. The program is designed to treat the whole patient at any time during the course of their disease process. Benefits include improved quality of life, better knowledge of symptom management and coordination of care, a plan of care based on patient goals, and communication with multiple health care providers.
During tenth grade, Joe began receiving hospice services as well. Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process, one of life’s greatest challenges. It uses a team approach to provide care and support to the patient and family, preparing the patient emotionally, spiritually and physically before and during the dying process. Hospice also ensures that family members receive support after the patient’s death.
“Joe became homebound,” Lori said. “While we had our happy daily routines, the hospice visits became more important than ever because the staff members were company for him. It was a part of his social life. It helped me as a mother to see him happy at these visits. It was comforting to have them with us.”
On November fourth, 2008, Joe was taken to the hospital to have fluid drained from his lungs. Around 12:45 in the morning, he developed trouble with breathing. Members of the hospice team arrived and discussed options with Lori, who ultimately determined that it was simply time to let him go. While arrangements were being made to have a hospital bed delivered to his home, Joe Smith, age 19, died in his sleep at the hospital with his mother by his side.
“He was comfortable.” Lori said. “He died so peacefully and quietly. I couldn’t wish anything better for him. He just took one last breath. That’s all – one last breath.”
Lori was amazed at the outpouring of love at Joe’s funeral. She said, “There were people there that I didn’t even know. There were people from the schools, even though he hadn’t been able to attend for over a year. There were church people and kids from his youth group. It was amazing to see how one life had touched so many.”
Joe certainly did touch lives – lives that spanned an entire community. The touch of his unique life will forever leave a beautiful impression on his family, his friends and even on the hospice team who had the undeniable honor of knowing him.
If someone you know is living with chronic or terminal illness, MidMichigan Home Care’s palliative care and hospice programs may provide much-needed relief and comfort. To learn more about these programs, call toll free (800) 862-5002 or visit www.midmichigan.org/homecare.