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Patient Stories

Crucial Support Eases Stress on Caregivers

Jim Cloran, 58, of Lynn, was a bear of a man -- tall and strong with a no-nonsense kind of personality –who had a tough exterior but a heart of gold. A sheet metal worker, he lived for weekends on his motorcycle, working in the garden and playing with his dog.  Married for 17 years to his wife Linda, they had a combined nine kids and 20 grandchildren and life was busy. Four years ago, their life together took on new meaning.

Jim had a heart attack while working with Linda’s son. Rushed to North Shore Medical Center, where Linda worked in the Special Care Nursery, he had a cardiac catherization and a stent placed in his artery to restore blood flow. Seemingly out of the woods, four days later doctors discovered that he had Stage 4 colon cancer after he had unexplained bleeding.  After three years of treatment and a brief remission, his cancer spread and his symptoms got worse. In February 2013, his oncologist suggested that he seek the help of Care Dimensions.

“At first, we were both reluctant to consider hospice care,” said Linda. “Jim was a tough patient and he didn’t think he needed the extra help. But once the Care Dimensions team came, I could finally take a break from the constant worry about managing his care. I didn’t realize, until they started, all the stress I had been under.  Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done without the Care Dimensions team.”

Jim hit it off immediately with his nurse, who would joke with him but also patiently explain everything she was doing, how to better manage his symptoms and how to take his medication.  Initially reluctant to talk with a chaplain because Jim didn’t practice a religion, he came to look forward to his visits and chats about life with Larry Atkins, who Jim affectionately came to call, “Padre.”

“Aside from the very important practical matters, like managing all the medications, equipment and helping me sort out legal issues and plans, the biggest benefit to me was finally having someone I could lean on for support and to talk to about Jim’s condition,” explained Linda. “They were able to help me understand that his symptoms and behaviors were part of the progression of his disease.”

Once, Jim had spent a long, hot day outside working on his motorcycle and he came in disoriented and not making sense when he talked to Linda. Panicked, Linda immediately called his nurse and she suggested that he was probably dehydrated. “By the time he finished a couple of glasses of water, his nurse was at our house to check him out.  That kind of response and support made caring for Jim so much easier.”

Jim and Linda tried to make the most of their time together once Jim’s symptoms were in control, traveling to New Hampshire and Las Vegas, and spending time with their kids and friends. Jim was even able to complete his “bucket list” item by restoring his motorcycle so he could give it to his son.

Days away from Thanksgiving, Jim woke up with sudden abdominal pain. Linda called his nurse and gave him some morphine for the pain. Twenty minutes later, she was at the house examining him when she noticed his shortness of breath.  Then he collapsed. Jim died from a pulmonary embolism –a blood clot in the lungs.

“It was all so sudden. We knew we had limited time because of his cancer, but he was fairly stable and we didn’t expect him to die from a blood clot of all things,” said Linda. “Having our hospice nurse with me during the whole experience made it bearable.”

“The whole Care Dimensions team brought such skill and expertise to our care,” said Linda. “They really cared for both of us, and that support brought such peace of mind to Jim’s final months. I don’t know how I would have done it alone.”

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore,  has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

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