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The Things That Matter Most

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The Things That Matter Most

Editor’s Note: In early July of this year, I accompanied my fellow NHPCO communications team to the MJHS Hospice Inpatient Residence at Menorah in Brooklyn, New York. The agenda for this trip was to document a family’s experience for the “Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice” campaign. While waiting for the family we intended to interview, we saw a little boy running down the hall. Our curiosity about this child led us to discover that this bouncy boy was at the hospice home visiting his mother.

While a large part of my job is writing and sharing stories about hospice on a daily basis, I can’t help but frequently envision myself in other people’s shoes. This trip to New York was one of only a handful of times that I had left my own young son at home. While I was sad to not see my sweet boy’s face that night, I knew this mother would soon be leaving her little boy for the rest of his life. Holding back our emotions, we asked the family of this child if they would like to be a part of the public awareness campaign and share a little bit about their experience with hospice. Without hesitation, they said, “Yes.”

The young mother’s name was Tamar. It was an honor to meet her and capture these photos of her family’s moments together that day. Here is a little piece of her life story.
~ Elizabeth Schneider 

The Things That Matter Most

Submitted by Audrey Waters – Director of PR at MJHS

Tamar was 26, and had been married for 4 years with a 3-year-old son whom she adored. The young Jewish Orthodox woman with a bubbly personality was also a major Taylor Swift fan.

In 2014, Tamar was diagnosed with spindle cell carcinoma. At the time, she was working as an ultrasound technician. On June 10, 2015, the Queens, New York, native began receiving care from MJHS Hospice.

Tamar came from a large, tight-knit family: she was 1 of 7 children. After learning of her illness, Tamar’s husband and parents were her primary caregivers. Even when one of Tamar’s sisters died unexpectedly, Tamar’s family remained her dedicated support system. But over time, Tamar’s physical pain and other symptoms spiraled out of control.

Understanding that some patients can’t remain safely at home, a physician at a leading cancer treatment institution in Manhattan suggested that Tamar move to the MJHS Hospice Inpatient Hospice Residence in Brooklyn. Her parents were concerned because they assumed hospice meant ‘giving up’, but they recognized that Tamar needed more medical support than they could provide at home.

Under the watchful eyes of a culturally-sensitive MJHS Hospice care team that includes a physician, nurse, social worker, rabbi and creative arts therapist, Tamar thrived. For example, with IV and pain management taken care of, she could safely indulge her love of sushi, Swedish Fish candy and Italian Ice. She was also able to host a girls’ night out in her room—which is actually more like a 2-room New York apartment, replete with a guest bed/pull out sofa, large bathroom, sitting area, kitchenette and view of Manhattan Beach.

Even as her cancer metastasized, Tamar retained her sweet personality and wonderful sense of humor. She even smiled in her sleep. During a family meeting with Tamar’s hospice interdisciplinary team, some relatives wondered if Tamar could go back home and receive hospice care there. The conversation was difficult but at the end, there was agreement that the residence was the best place for Tamar to stay.

For the family, the rabbi’s involvement was critical. MJHS offers all Jewish patients a halachic pathway, which is a tool that ensures a patient, family and a chosen rabbinic advisor, or posek, will be included in the medical decision-making process. If the patient elects to participate in the program, he or she can receive end-of-life care that adheres to personal religious practice and to Jewish law.

The interdisciplinary team also helped Tamar and her husband prepare their son for the inevitable. At the MJHS Hospice Inpatient Residence, the little boy could cuddle with his mommy and daddy, charm visitors into playing board games in the family room, and run around the playground to his heart’s content.

Hospice gave Tamar and her family a care plan unlike any other. The greatest benefit is the opportunity to focus on what matters most: each other.

*Tamar died on July 22, 2015. Until the very end, she was a joyful young woman. Before Tamar passed, a popular Jewish Orthodox singer performed two mini concerts for Tamar and her loved ones at the MJHS Inpatient Hospice Residence. It was standing room only.

Click here to learn more about MJHS Hospice Inpatient Residence at Menorah

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