Jim Rowley - Bay City, MI
"MidMichigan Hospice people have an empathy, a caring. They are tuned in to the patient and the dynamics of what is happening to the rest of the family."
He and His Wife Got All the Care and Compassion They Hoped For
In late 2013, Elizabeth and James Rowley decided to "really" retire. The Bay City couple planned to wrap up the careers they had enjoyed into their mid-70s and drive around the country, touring sights and seeing friends.
In mid-March 2014, after coming home from a Florida trip, Elizabeth didn't feel up to par. After some self-doctoring, trips to her primary doctor, and subsequent tests, she was diagnosed in early July with pancreatic cancer.
There were more tests, more meetings with surgeons and oncologists, trips to specialty clinics and appointments at medical centers. Her cancer was deemed too advanced for surgery. James shared that, "The prognosis was not positive."
"My wife contemplated all of it," James said. "She plainly expressed that, from what she had learned, going through chemotherapy and radiation might gain her three to six months. The trade-off was being half miserable the whole time. She decided she was not going to do that. She was going to let go."
James told Elizabeth that whatever she decided, he'd support. "I told her, 'If you don't have a long time, let's go for better quality of life for as long as you have left,'" he said. "I wanted to do everything I could to keep her at home for whatever time she had."
A good report from a friend whose father had received end-of-life care from MidMichigan Home Care confirmed their choice of a hospice care provider for Elizabeth.
"We called MidMichigan, and they came to talk to us within 24 hours," James said. Key members of Elizabeth's care team included Carol Bolander, R.N., and Bereavement Counselor Diane Julian "We hoped for the dream team, and we got it. For the rest of our experience, Carol was our primary care person. She was an angel."
"These folks knew the process – the continuum – that the rest of us didn't know," James said. "Carol would always take time to explain what was happening, where we were in the timeline and what was probably going to happen next. She was clued in to, and cared about, the family as well as the patient."
James felt that Elizabeth was getting all the care she needed, as she needed it. "We were told to call MidMichigan anytime with any concerns or questions, and they were very responsive," he said. "When she needed more pain medication, they were always reachable and would check with the experts and get back to us quickly. When a minor equipment glitch occurred, they were all over it and got it straightened out. No passing the buck or making excuses."
"MidMichigan Home Care people have empathy, a caring," James said. "They are tuned into the patient and the dynamics of what is happening to the rest of the family. It wasn't just another job."
At home, Elizabeth was cared for in the room that had been her office during the many years she worked as a counselor. The family visited and provided as much hands-on care as they could. James remembers thinking at first that he and Elizabeth might have a year or even 18 months together, but sadly, Elizabeth lived just 70 days after her diagnosis.
"She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother, and a woman of compassion, empathy and high intellect," James said. "She touched many lives, and she is deeply missed."
MidMichigan's help for the Rowley family continued with bereavement support after Elizabeth passed away. "Sometime after her death, I was contacted to see how I was doing, and we did take advantage of the help offered with the grieving process," James said.
In January 2016, Julian called James to let him know about MidMichigan's first men-only grief support group. "In mixed groups, women tend to do more of the talking," he said. Ultimately, he found that the members of the men's group talked, shared and they all benefited. "It's an ongoing, free service that you can continue to use as long as you care to go," he said. "It's been very helpful, and I’ll continue to attend."
MidMichigan Home Care provides a variety of health-related products and services that help individuals remain independent at home. Home care can help patients avoid admission to a hospital or nursing home, providing care in the comfort of their homes. Those who would like more information about MidMichigan Home Care may visit www.midmichigan.org/homecare.