The Fourteenth Week: My Family’s Experience With Gilchrist’s Jewish Care and Support Program

August 16, 2019, Hospice, Hospice Patient Stories, Jewish Hospice

We have a principle in Judaism that God sends the “cure” before the “disease.” While my husband’s devastating diagnosis of glioblastoma—fatal brain cancer—had no cure, it turns out that Gilchrist’s Jewish Care and Support did provide a type of beautiful cure for my family.

Shocking Diagnosis

In November 2016, my life came to a screeching halt when, without warning, my husband, Darrell, only 61, was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. Thirteen weeks after his diagnosis, Darrell suffered a catastrophic brain bleed and was expected to die any minute…or any day.

Gilchrist – The Cure

Gilchrist's Jewish Hospice
Sherri Zaslow, Gilchrist Jewish Advisory Committee Member

When Darrell’s brain bleed was diagnosed in the ER, I immediately called Gilchrist. As a member of Gilchrist’s Jewish Advisory Committee, I had firsthand knowledge of the compassionate, culturally sensitive care of Gilchrist’s Jewish Care and Support Program. I knew I could depend on the program in our moment of need. By the next morning, Darrell was safely tucked into a cozy hospice room at Gilchrist Center Towson, familiar mezuzah on the doorpost and loving staff enveloping us.

Our large gang of grandchildren, who were so close to Darrell, always felt welcome when they visited their grandfather. They explored every nook and cranny of the center, including the playroom, and wrote prayer notes to place in the Jerusalem Wall of the meditation room. Every staff member, from the front desk to dining to the nurses and doctors, was so friendly to them. The children’s parents borrowed books from the Levinson Jewish library outside our room to read aloud and try to help them understand what was happening.

Our large family rotated stays ‘round the clock in Darrell’s room, and the staff displayed genuine kindness. One night when I was half asleep in the common room, a nurse came in, and I jumped up thinking I would be told I couldn’t sleep on the sofa. However, she sweetly said she was sorry for startling me and was just coming to shut off the lights and close the door so I could get some sleep. That small gesture loomed large in my heavy heart.

Cultural Sensitivity

There are no words to express my appreciation to the Gilchrist nurses and doctors who surrounded Darrell and our family with warmth and respect, whether through words or deeds or their sensitivity to our Jewish approach.

Gilchrist’s dining director met with me to see how she could help with our kosher meals. She was accommodating to the local Jewish organization who delivered kosher food each day. We formed a bond with the other Gilchrist families in that common room and shared the abundance of food with them. Without the spacious common room, we couldn’t have been together for meals or stayed by Darrell’s side.

We spent our Sabbath in Gilchrist, and it turned out to be a special 25 hours. Everyone was interested and involved in our observance and sensitive to our needs. When Sabbath was over and our friends and family came to visit with guitars and beautiful song, the nurses came to be part of it all too.

As the week progressed, I was feeling overwhelmed. The beautiful meditation room and outdoor patio overlooking nature provided a comforting atmosphere that helped immensely. They provided a serene ambiance for speaking with the people helping me, from my rabbi to the person in charge of the cemetery to family meetings. I had some hard decisions to make, and doing so while hearing birds sing and seeing trees and hills provided me the space to just breathe and do so.

Dignity and Support

Darrell died in a tranquil, beautiful, supportive environment after a one-week stay in Gilchrist Center Towson, as our two sons read to him from The Ethics of Our Fathers—special teachings by the Jewish Sages. The staff knew what to do and not do according to Jewish custom.

Out of the 14 weeks my husband suffered with his devastating diagnosis, it was truly the 14th week that gave us the dignity and support we sought. While there is not yet a cure for my husband’s disease, I was surely sent the cure of having Gilchrist’s Jewish Care and Support program for his care.

Learn more about Gilchrist’s Jewish Care and Support Program.

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