Jessie Walsh

Sitting in my remote office (currently my kitchen table), I find comfort in my peaceful, scenic view of the Portal.

Yet my vision is blurred by the current crisis we are facing: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone, not just medical professionals, seems to be experiencing an increased level of anxiety due to this pandemic – anxiety for ourselves, our families, and our community. As a mother, I wonder will my son graduate this May? Will he go to college in the fall? Will he stay healthy?

As a nurse, will I be called to leave my cozy home office and to care for patients with COVID-19 disease? Will I be forced to treat my friends, my neighbors, even my own family?

As the director of the Grand County Hospice, I have to ask myself the questions that I have asked of others: if I get critically ill, do I want to be put on a ventilator? Have I communicated my needs clearly to those responsible for my care? Am I at peace with my choices, decisions, and instructions?

So many questions and so much uncertainty. We have watched as waves of COVID-19 have hit the world. Slowly and from a distance, it is heading towards us. I am finding some calm and asking myself, what should I do now?

In a way, this calm before the potential storm is a blessing. I have often wondered what it must be like for my hospice patients as they are nearing the end of their lives. Some are blessed with time. It’s beautiful to watch as patients reflect and review their lives. They forgive. They heal, not their physical bodies, but their hearts and their relationships. They love. They give blessings and are graced with the same in return. It is not easy, but they do it. Eventually, most patients arrive at a place of peace and acceptance.

A life-threatening diagnosis is not required to take the time and space to consider our lives and our relationships and prepare for our own end of life.

I hope for the best outcomes for this pandemic, but I also understand that we may not easily escape the worst of what this pandemic may bring. I understand that a lot of people are sick and more are expected to be sick every day, even those without underlying health conditions. I understand that more and more young people are getting the virus. I understand that a percentage of those who are sick will need to be hospitalized to get through it and possibly require critical care. I understand that the limited resources of a community our size may not be enough to care for the number of COVID-19 positive patients we will need to treat.

Understanding all of this, what does it mean for me and my family?

For a small percentage of individuals, the progression of this illness is swift and unforgiving. Once intubated, you can no longer easily participate in your healthcare decisions. Preparing and communicating my needs now provides me with a sense of peace in knowing what I can control.

There is an opportunity in this crisis if we take the time to ask ourselves these hard questions. Can I face my death? Am I willing to forgive, heal, and love? Will I give the biggest gift and blessing to my loved ones by clarifying and communicating my end-of-life wishes?

It is my hope that our loved ones never need this information. However, if they do, I want to make sure I have made every effort I can to free them from any uncertainty and ease their hearts and minds as they find peace knowing my wishes have been respectfully applied.

Please consider filling out an Advance Care Directive that can be kept on file at the hospital. Whether this pandemic affects you directly or not, it's important to do medical care planning now and to have your wishes in writing so that caregivers are able to make the decisions you would want if you are unable to make these for yourself.

If you have any questions about Advance Directives or how to begin having this conversation with your loved ones, please visit Moab Regional Hospital’s Medical Care Planning page here: https://mrhmoab.org/medical-care-planning/. Feel free to call me at 435-719-3772 or send me an email at jessicaw@mrhmoab.org. I would be happy to speak with you.