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In September 2012, Bryan Caldwell was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A former professional football player in the NFL, rancher and surfer, he embodies strength. His wife, Krista, a nurse with Houston Hospice El Campo, even tells the story of how the morning before he was diagnosed, Bryan mowed the yard with a collapsed lung.
Six months into his fight with lymphoma, Bryan learned his cancer was unresponsive to medical treatments. He knew he wanted to spend his remaining time living without pain, at home, surrounded by all he loved. So he chose hospice care.
“Our whole philosophy is not to stay sitting, it’s to stay moving and to keep living each moment that comes along,” says Bryan. “Hospice provides that golden opportunity for me, every single day. If I have the energy and I feel up to it, I’m getting out there.”
“Bryan’s case manager, Jackie Hooper, RN, is my friend, my mentor, my co-worker, and … my husband’s hospice nurse,” says Krista. “Bryan is her patient, but he is my life. I am able to be a calm patient advocate for all of our patients, but not for my husband. Bryan may sleep 18 hours a day and then get up and decide to chop down a tree … or disappear to go fishing for hours without his phone. Trying to keep him safe and manage his symptoms, while encouraging his autonomy has been an arduous effort.”
The expertise of Bryan’s hospice team has kept his pain under control, enabling him to do the things he loves and spend time with the people he cherishes most. His social worker, Pat, has been instrumental in suggesting a continuation of activities Bryan enjoys, including fishing, raising birds and gardening.
“Being on hospice has given me time to watch a plant grow from a seedling into a vegetable on my table that we’re eating,” says Bryan. “For all we know, I could die next week. But right now, I’m not dying, I’m living and I’m feeling good and I’m feeling strong and hospice is creating all that for me.”
The hospice team has been just as vital to Krista. “Everyone has exemplified patience and support for me,” Krista says. “Sharing hugs, a kind ear, and special notes and cards, they have managed to help me feel grounded and protected throughout this painful process.
“I truly cannot fathom walking this road without the Houston Hospice El Campo team. These nurses are walking beside me, pulling ahead and pushing behind when needed. I am inspired by them professionally and personally, and I am so very grateful.”
Bryan Caldwell died on January 15, 2015, at the age of 54.
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