by: Patricia Mehl
I would like to share a story about Dr. Marcos Madeiro, one of your many fine hospitalists at Bronson Medical Center in Kalamazoo.
My mother, Marilee E. Harper, passed away this week at the age of 82. This woman raised 10 children, my siblings and me, almost single-handedly. She was known as ‘The Jewel Lady’ and ‘The Target Lady’, having worked as a cashier in both places between about 1980 and 2004. She was a friend to so many, and ‘Mom’ to so many more.
The last six months of her life were very stressful. Due to her health, she was asked to give up driving, which left her isolated in her home in western Kalamazoo County. Then she began having problems with short term memory loss. After a brief stay in Bronson in the early fall, it was determined that, even with the help of her children (5 of whom still live in the area), she was no longer able to live on her own, and so was moved into the home of one of her daughters. A loving environment to be sure, but stressful, nonetheless.
Subsequently, she had three more stints in the hospital with various problems. During this time, we worked to find her a home in an assisted living residence. She had just moved in, after her 3rd hospitalization (and subsequent rehab stay), and found it to be just the environment for her. She loved the staff, her neighbors, and the security that living in such a place afforded her.
However, after two weeks, she was back in the hospital for what turned out to be her final visit. We had noticed over the previous several weeks that she was declining: poor appetite, no motivation to do her physical therapy or to move at all, increasing depression. After five days in the hospital, the clinical staff had done all they could do to stabilize her conditions (bowel obstruction, bronchitis, renal insufficiency), but it was apparent that she was not regaining her previous vitality.
Here is where Dr. Madeiro comes in, at least for the family. He had been assigned to her case, as she was housed in the AMU in the North Pavilion. I had already had the opportunity to work with Dr. Madeiro with another family member, and so I was thrilled that he was watching out for Mom. I had the opportunity to speak with him on a Tuesday afternoon at some length about Mom’s condition. He spent over an hour with me, explaining how all her frailties had brought her to the point that medical science could no longer cure her, but only keep her from declining further. He suggested that we consider Hospice for Mom, with palliative care. I asked him if he would be willing to speak with the family, so that they could understand the totality of her condition. He said that he would be privileged to do so, and came in on his day off and spent over an hour talking with us.
Dr. Madeiro helped us to sort through all the conditions Mom was contending with. He indicated that any one or even several of the conditions, considered separately, were very treatable. But given all the diseases together, and the toll it had taken on her body, she was no longer able to sustain enough vitality to fight. He encouraged us to talk with Mom, to let her know that we loved her, but understood (which we all did) that if she’d had enough, that we would support her through her final transition.
We did that, with tears, and love, and laughter, and we were able to take Mom home to enjoy her last days with her family. She died 10 days after her discharge.
The upshot of all this is that without Dr. Madeiro’s compassionate guidance, this process would have been infinitely more difficult not only for Mom, but for us, her family. It has been a long time since I have encountered a doctor, particularly a hospitalist, who has been so gentle, so caring, so personally involved with his patients and their families. He has an empathy that should be treasured by Bronson, and he is a fine example after which other doctors should pattern their training in caring for patients. His heart and his compassion are rare, especially for one as young as he is. We hope that many years of service will not harden his approach!
Thank you Bronson Medical Center, and all your fine staff, including nurses, PCA’s, social workers, case managers, dietary aides and staff, and all those who care for the patients either directly or indirectly. And a very special, heartfelt, thank you to Dr. Marcos Madeiro: you are one of the guardian angels we need in this world. Keep doing what you’re doing!