After Near-Death Experience, David Helps Others


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­More than seven years ago, David was in dire straits. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatitis and was hospitalized for 10½ months. As David recalled, "It got to the point where I couldn't even shave." Amid his darkest days, David saw something positive: "I admired the people who took care of me. Nothing was a big deal to them when things were going really badly. I wondered if I could be that guy who could take care of people like the way they did."

David got his chance to help others Feb. 5, 2018, when he joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Metairie, an award-winning franchise owned by Lisa Rabito. A friend had told David about Home Instead Senior Care, which serves the Jefferson and Orleans Parishes.

"The friend knows me well and suggested Home Instead. I checked the Home Instead website, and it sounded good. But it was one of those things where I could not really tell if I could do it unless I tried it because I have no senior-care background," explained David, who had been a traveling admissions recruiter for an East Coast college and moved to the New Orleans area five years ago after falling in love with NOLA during a recruiting trip.

Ten months into his Home Instead Senior Care tenure, David was honored as CAREGiver of the Month. CAREGiver Development Coordinator Fay Kelting said: "David is another of our quiet ­heroes. He was relatively new to this type of caregiving. He has blossomed into one of our many outstanding CAREGivers. We felt we really needed to honor David with all of his hard work and dedication to his clients."

David's miraculous recovery obviously impacted his life, He had gone to a hospital emergency room in fall 2011 with the idea of being released quickly. David said "the familiar signature pain" pointed to his pancreas, because he had had three cases of pancreatitis that consisted of two- to three-day hospital stays. But it was different this time.

"Pancreatic failure very rarely happens. There was no explanation for what caused it. I recovered completely, and there is no good explanation for that, either," said David, who temporarily lost his eyesight and suffered 28 cracked teeth among other afflictions related to the illness. "My world shrank to the size of a walnut. The daily timing of the extremely strong painkillers was key. At 9 each night, the pain med was tapered off so that it ended at 10 p.m. I couldn't take more pain meds or I simply would not wake up."

But, David said, "Things calmed down. That hospital has a specialist who is 'the pancreas guru.' I was considered for a double transplant – the pancreas must be removed with the liver. Through a CT scan, they discovered a liver growth that prevented surgery. But then the pancreas got better. I know full well it could happen again, but I don't live in fear. During the hospital stay, I found a counselor for the medically hopeless. Would I die in 90 days in the hospital room? Maybe. The 'death counselor' talked me through it."

The counselor made a lasting impact by exploring "competing priorities." David explained: "Those are all these things you 'want' to do. Ninety-eight percent of what you thought were competing priorities are no longer important. When nearly everything is taken from you, you realize what is important." David's experiences have helped him to help his clients. A 95-year-old client requires constant personal care, but his mind "is crisp."

David added: "Physically speaking, nearly everything has been taken from him. It's as if he is trapped in his own body. I can relate. I am the only CAREGiver, and he lives with his son, who is very responsible. In addition to personal care, meal preparation and a few other things, I try to be the best companion I can be. My presence helps him feel secure. Occasionally, he'll say random things, like 'I've got to get home.' I tell him that he's arrived and everything is all right."

Another client, 78, went to bed one day and couldn't get up. A month later, he died. "I was surprised he went downhill so quickly. Two weeks before, he had been active and was using a walker," David said.

In David's first assignment, many of the nurses at an assisted living facility were having difficulty handling the client. "It was everything you could imagine. He was a fall risk who couldn't be talked out of trying to get up. It almost felt like a wrestling match. At a shift change, a veteran staff member showed up and gave me advice: 'Put him in charge of a transport chair, let him walk it around and follow him.' I did, and he walked for three hours. All he wanted to do was walk," said David, who knows a thing or two about wanting to be independent.

David added, "I like the work as a CAREGiver. It is challenging in ways I appreciate."

All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call 504-455-4911 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website.

David Cherry Metairie December 2018 Pix.jpg

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