Miss Irene was my home health patient. She was a feisty, slender, seventy-six year old widow ~ just discharged from the hospital with a new colostomy. When she’d left the hospital, unfortunately, she’d been somewhat unprepared for life with a new ostomy ~ this is often the case for many who are in her situation. (As ostomy nurses, my long time colleague Gail and I always taught extensively on this process, so that when our patients went home they felt fully prepared for this complex task. But in Irene’s case things were a little different. She needed some extra help.)
Irene never complained, though! She was positive about life! She liked to bring out photo albums of her family and talk about the love they shared. She also told me about her great grand daughter, Destiny, her little angel ~ the apple of her eye! Destiny was about eighteen months old at the time.
Because I loved working with ostomy patients, I began a number of lengthy teaching visits to her home. As with many of my East Texas home health patients, she and I became very good friends. Over the months I came to know and sincerely admire this iron-willed great grandma.
Irene was a very unusual lady with unique purpose in life ~ a mission!
You see, her grandson was in prison. I don’t remember why, but I do remember that this twenty-something young man was going to be there for several years.
He’d fathered Destiny, whose mother was nowhere to be found. Irene’s daughter was trying to take care of Destiny, but she had to work, and she needed help. So Irene was determined to get well so that she could take care of the baby and give her daughter a break. There was no other family, no other help. Only Irene. And Irene was on a mission!
Her health improved quickly. Being quite independent, she soon began her self care, so it was time for my visits to end. I couldn’t justify professional care anymore, but I did stop by to see her on a regular basis, because she’d become a friend and a sheer inspiration to me.
And there she was, caring for this curly haired toddler, loving every minute. Her strength had returned, her health was good. She was visibly energized by the presence of that baby! Destiny had begun staying with Irene most days and nights, and to my knowledge this lasted for years. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Irene thrived because she had Destiny in her life~ and Destiny needed her! The bond between them was incredibly strong. Irene told me she planned to help her daughter care for Destiny until her grandson was released from prison. She was going to stand in the gap ~ to make certain her family’s needs were met ~ as long as she was able!
Some years later Irene lost her battle with cancer. But I will forever remember her drive and determination. Her deep and sacrificial love that transcended and supported the generations, keeping her strong physically and mentally. How I admired and respected this lady!
And I know that somewhere in this world is a young woman who’ll always remember her great grandma’s positive outlook, her iron will and strength ~ fueled by love.