Hospice of the North Coast’s Pacifica House is more than a clinical facility for end-of-life care. It is a special place where hospice families and friends can come together and comfort each other during difficult times.
Throughout the pandemic, separation and isolation became the norm for a lot of people. And in many clinical settings personal contact with patients was not allowed, often depriving families of the opportunity to say a final “goodbye.” In contrast to these locations, Pacifica House has continued providing a safe and nurturing environment where families can be together, in person.
Oftentimes, our hospice team becomes an extension of a patient’s family. From the moment they come through the doors of Pacifica House we begin to know them. We hear their stories, we laugh with them, and we hold their hand when they need us. Last year, this sense of family resulted in a special experience for one Pacifica House patient. Let me introduce you to Angel (fictitious name).
Angel was 37 years old when diagnosed with colon cancer. He was a husband and father of three children under the age of 15 (two boys and a girl). He was also a 20-year active-duty Marine.
A year following Angel’s diagnosis, he came to Pacifica House for help managing his pain and symptoms.
Angel was a man of faith and shared with his hospice team that, while in the hospital, he had a spiritual experience and believed that God had given him extra time to say ‘goodbye’ to his family and celebrate with his daughter on her 8th birthday. However, due to the progression of his illness, he became worried that he would miss his little girl’s birthday, which was three days away.
When the Pacifica House staff learned of Angel’s wish, they knew they must make it come true.
Together they pooled their resources and quickly planned a surprise party to take place the next day. There was pizza, balloons, and mermaid-themed decorations. The icing on the (cup)cake was a real-live mermaid! Hospice LVN, Darleen, appeared in full costume as Disney’s Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Angel’s daughter reacted with tears of joy and, together with her brothers, spent time making arts and crafts with Ariel.
The hospice team also surprised Angel by presenting him with an Honor Salute. This unique program recognizes veteran hospice patients. It gives pride and peace to our veterans while bringing family and friends to celebrate their loved one’s military service. Most often it is the last public thank-you they will receive.
Whether it was Disney magic, divine intervention, or the hearts of an entire hospice team, a celebration occurred at Pacifica House in the midst of great sadness. Angel passed two days later, on his daughter’s birthday, with loved ones by his side. What an honor it was to make Angel’s final wish come true and create a special day that will be remembered fondly as a beautiful celebration of life … for both father and daughter.
The only short term in-patient facility in North County San Diego, Pacifica House is a home for hospice patients who require a higher level of skilled care to manage pain and symptoms.