By Janet Stark
Madeleine Gaetanne Séguin, (Ma), was the mother of four daughters in a close-knit French-Canadian family from Prescott, Ontario. One day in early June she was a perfectly healthy 86 year old, exercising and enjoying her daily walks, and the next day she went to see her doctor with a bloated abdomen. After a whirlwind of tests, she was given a diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer. Madeleine accepted this news 100%. She had a strong Roman Catholic faith and knew she would soon be united with her husband of a 52-year marriage.
She insisted on immediately making all her funeral arrangements. A few days later, she was brought to palliative care at the Brockville General Hospital.
The thing that most disturbed Madeleine about the fact that she was now dying, was that she wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding of her granddaughter, Josée. It was going to be in only six days, and here she was dying in hospital. Another granddaughter, Krista, had an idea. When she visited Ma in the hospital, she asked the nurses, “Is there Wi-Fi here in this room?” The answer was yes, and she immediately put her plan into action.
On the morning of the wedding, June 15, 2013, Krista brought in her Apple iPad, and briefed the nurses that her grandma was to participate in the wedding “in real time” over Skype!
Usually the nurses in palliative care are very busy, but as providence would have it, on this day, there was an extra nurse, Lisa Desormeaux, a young nurse still on orientation. Lisa knew all about technology and happily took over the project. She sat with Madeleine holding the iPad up for over an hour so that “Ma” could watch Josée and Tyler get married, in the church in Russell, Ontario. The family now refer to that young RN, Lisa, as their “guardian angel.” When the wedding started, a friend of the bride sang a solo as Josée walked down the aisle, and according to Mary Bailey, palliative care RN, it was a very emotional moment and there were tears in that hospital room!
Madeleine Gaetanne Séguin
Ma waved and said “hello” as Krista held her cell phone up to the bride and groom at the front of the church. She blew kisses and the guests in the church laughed. Ma watched the entire ceremony as if she had a front row seat. She even shared the fun of the Dickie-Dee ice-cream man bringing treats outside the church after the ceremony.
All her life, Ma had been an excellent seamstress, and she had altered the scalloped lace hem of the mother-of-the-bride’s dress. Even from her hospital bed, Ma wanted to see the hem of her daughter’s dress, and that it lay perfect and even. Krista was able to scan the phone down over the dress until the camera was focused on the hem, and the result met with Ma’s approval!
Floor nurses flowed in and out of Ma’s room, as time permitted, genuinely interested in the wedding. Even the nurses that were not working that day came in to ask about it over the next few days. Within three days, the family had put together a huge frame of family photos, with lots of wedding shots. Ma said that this collection could be used at her own funeral, but she was lucky enough to see it herself. Full of pride for her family, she showed everyone who came in the room to visit.
Toward the end of Ma’s life, Charleen Findon, the manager, gently told Madeleine’s daughters that it might be helpful to tell her, “It is all right for you to go.” Patients often struggle with leaving this life when they sense loved ones will not be all right. When they are given “permission” it sometimes helps them to let go and slip away peacefully. Ma understood the concept right away. She spoke of seeing a beautiful light and people waiting for her in the corner of her room. She wanted her husband Ovila to come and get her. She asked her daughters, “Is it OK that I leave you today?” One daughter replied, “Not today, Ma, it is our sister Danielle’s birthday today. Can you hold on? In two days it will be Pa’s birthday, and you can go then.”
Madeleine was able to participate in her granddaughter’s
wedding, thanks to Skype technology.
This is exactly what happened. In the early morning on July 13, Madeleine died.
The family, although still grieving the loss of their beloved Ma, wanted the hospital to know how greatly they appreciated the attention she received while in our care. Friends and family have donated more than $1,800 in memory of Madeleine Séguin. It is the hope of the family that palliative care will use these funds towards the purchase of an iPad, laptop and cellphone for others to use for their special family events! This story shows the far-reaching impact of a relatively small deed. It has made a difference in the grieving process to this family. One thing palliative care nurse Mary Bailey said to the new nurse Lisa, before she left the hospital that day was, “You are just beginning your nursing career, and you may never experience something like this again. This is really something you’re going to remember.”
Janet Stark is a certified multifaith chaplain and grief services provider and the author of “FINAL SCENES: Bedside Tales at End of Life.” She can be reached at the Brockville General Hospital in Brockville, Ontario, Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org