A year ago at this time we were just getting settled in to the hospice center in Little Rock. After our doctor had confirmed what we already suspected...that there was nothing more that could be done for Hannah medically...we had spent the next couple of days trying to make hospice arrangements. Most of the time, hospice care does not provide anything that's considered "life sustaining", such as blood products...their main purpose is simply to make the patient as comfortable as possible as death nears. However, we very much wanted Hannah to be able to have platelet infusions, to prevent any more bleeding like what she experienced on her last morning at home. It took a few days to work out those details with the hospice center...they had to agree to do the infusions, and our insurance had to agree to pay for it.
When we finally got all the approvals, it was time to move. I was so nervous about moving Hannah...she was in such a weakened state, I could not imagine how she was going to tolerate the ambulance ride from the hospital to hospice. As a matter of fact, for me, the moving process was the most excruciating part of the entire journey up to that point. First there were the good-byes to all the nurses who had taken such good care of us for so long. Then the ambulance guys came to the room with a rolling guerney. They deftly lifted her onto it and strapped her on. It was so hard to see how small and fragile she looked on there...with her downy soft, baby fuzz just beginning to grow back on her head. She was awake, but her eyes were closed. It seemed like they rolled her through the entire hospital to get to where the ambulance was parked. We were all trailing along behind, lugging all of our belongings, and trying not to meet the sympathetic eyes of the people we passed in the halls. I felt sure everyone knew where we were going...we were clearly leaving, and one look at Hannah would have told them we were not coming back.
We finally got outside where the ambulance was waiting, and they loaded her in. When we were still up in the room, we had asked them if Bethany and I could ride with Hannah in the ambulance, and they had told us only one of us could ride with her...policy, you know. Bethany really, really wanted to ride with her, and we had decided we would let her do it, so she could have that the memory of that time with her sister. My heart was breaking, though...I couldn't imagine not being with her for that ride. After they loaded Hannah up, one of the ambulance guys leaned out and said, "Do you still want to ride with us?" He didn't have to ask me twice...I jumped right in! Bethany sat in the front with the driver, and I sat in the back on a little ledge near Hannah's feet...I was so thankful that they broke their policy for just this one time! We drove through the city of Little Rock in no hurry, no siren blaring...just a quiet ambulance, surrounded by cars full of people going on with their daily routines. I could see them through the windows, and I was amazed at how normal their lives all seemed to be. The ambulance guy was so kind...he made some effort at conversation, and I tried, but I really couldn't talk to him. So he started filling out some paperwork and asked me a few questions, including what Hannah's social security number was. I knew her number, but at that moment, I could not, for the life of me, remember what it was. After I hemmed and hawed around for a little while, Hannah shocked both of us by reciting it! At that point, I really didn't think she was awake, much less aware of our conversation. It was just like her to know something like that, and to answer for me when I was stumped!
We finally arrived at the hospice center, and they rolled her in and transferred her from the guerney to her new bed there. Once we got her settled in and sleeping, we left her with family members and went to the hospice office and did all the necessary paperwork. The center had about 20 rooms, and only about 5 were in use at the time, so they very graciously allowed our family to have the use of two rooms. Hannah and I stayed in one room together, and Brad and Bethany had a room right next door. They also put us at the end of a wing, where there was a very nice, large sunroom...a perfect place for our family to gather and hang out together. We basically had that whole wing to ourselves. It couldn't have been a better set up for our family.
Like I said, the day we moved to the hospice center was excruciating for me. When they put Hannah on that guerney and started rolling her out of the very familiar setting of Arkansas Children's Hospital's gold floor, it felt as though whatever little bit of control we might have had in the situation was finally completely gone. The process of giving Hannah up had begun. The weight of that as we rode in the ambulance made it difficult for me to even sit upright. And as we entered the hospice center for the first time, the sense of finality was overwhelming...knowing that whenever we left that place, we would be leaving without Hannah.
Yet, even in the midst of the devastating emotions of that day, God gave peace. I don't know how...I can't explain it. Looking back at it today, I really don't know how we survived it...the only possible explanation is that God carried us through it. There were so many people praying for us, and I really believe that is what kept us going. And then there was the knowledge that when Hannah did leave that place, her next destination was Heaven. There would be no more ambulance rides, chemo treatments, platelet infusions, or radiation sessions. And what could be sweeter than that?
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7