Losing a loved one is difficult in itself. But losing a loved one at such a young age is even harder. Most of the time, the only way one can overcome such a tragedy is to have the loving support of people around you.
That’s why Peter DeMarco was so grateful to the staff at Boston’s CHA Cambridge Hospital that lovingly took care of him and his 34-year-old wife, Laura Levis, during her final days.
“As I begin to tell my friends and family about the seven days you treated my wife, Laura Levis, in what turned out to be the last days of her young life, they stop me at about the 15th name that I recall,” DeMarco wrote in a tribute posted on the New York Times. “The list includes the doctors, nurses, respiratory specialist, social workers, even cleaning staff members who cared for her.”
They asked how he could remember all those names, but he says “How could I not?”
Levis suffered a serious asthma attack that required an organ transfer but later died after a spending a week in the hospital.
During that time hospital staff made sure to turn their heads when he snuck in their cat, emotionally supported Levis’ parents, and even allowed him to throw an impromptu party with family and friends.
“Every single one of you treated Laura with such professionalism, and kindness, and dignity as she lay unconscious,” he explained. “When she needed shots, you apologized that it was going to hurt a little, whether or not she could hear.”
DeMarco was taken aback with how the hospital staff involved his wife’s family in her care with such compassion.
“You cared so greatly for her parents, helping them climb into the room’s awkward recliner, fetching them fresh water almost by the hour, and by answering every one of their medical questions with incredible patience,” he commented.
And of course the abundant amount of care they showed him from making sure he was hydrated, well fed, showered and comforted.
“How many times did you walk into the room to find me sobbing my head down, resting on her hand, and quietly go about your task, as if willing yourselves invisible?” he asked. “How many times did you help me set up the recliner as close as possible to her bedside, crawling into the mess of wires and tubes around her bed in order to swing her forward just a few feet?”
They made sure that he had computers when he needed to send an emergency email and even “didn’t see a thing,” when he smuggled Levis’ cat Cola into her room. Not only did they provide him with basic necessities, but their humanity far exceeded their job requirements.
“How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces, or ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her?” he says. “How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?”
It was the last of Levine’s life that their efforts ensured that it would be a day that DeMarco would never forget.
They created a space so that he could fit inside the bed with his wife and made sure that they were completely uninterrupted for a whole hour. They agreed, closed the door and shut off the lights as DeMarco cuddled close to his wife.
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“It was our last tender moment as a husband and wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt,” he wrote. “And then I fell asleep. I will remember that last hour together for the rest of my life. It was beyond gifts, and I have Donna and Jen to thank for it. Really, I have all of you to thank for it.”
DeMarco signed his letter “With my eternal gratitude and love.” You can read his full tribute here.
The people who staff our local hospitals see these types of things day in and day out, but still stay strong to lessen the burden of those who walk through their doors. Though life may present us with difficult times, it’s comforting to know that there are earth angels who make those times bearable and possible for us to live through.
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