THE GIFT OF LA MAISON D’HÉRELLE
June 16yh, 2011
“Hurry up, he’s borderline!” the triage nurse yelled. With my head lying on her desk (I was too weak even to sit up in my chair), I didn’t have to wait long to see the nurses arrive with the stretcher. It was the middle of the night and I was in the emergency room a week after my second chemotherapy session for phase-3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This latest barrage of chemotherapy was added to an already overburdened tally: 21 years positive, 15 years with AIDS, H1N1 influenza diagnosed two days earlier, and – as they would discover two days later – pneumonia.
Ten days later, I met Jean-Marc with the Maison d’Hérelle. As I was unable to care for myself and I clearly needed a long time to recover, a hospice was sought. Our first meeting was warm and cordial, which was a great relief – as someone used to my solitude, I was wary of living with others. No problem, I told myself, I’ll only be there for a few days until I get back on my feet. Little did I know I’d be there three and a half months.
But those three and a half months would turn out to be one of the most positive experiences of my life. From the very first day, everyone let me know that I could make myself at home. A warm welcome, a solicitous attitude, leaving me just the right amount of space – everything foretold a stay that would prove not only highly beneficial, but enjoyable as well.
Over the first few days at Maison d’Hérelle, I went from surprise to admiration. I was impressed to see how the whole staff – caregivers, volunteers, trainees, and housekeepers – treated everyone with equal attention and warmth.
I was under a very strict three-week alternative treatment program. Although it was audacious, and perhaps bizarre in many people’s eyes, the staff supported me respectfully and energetically. Alternative care is one of the highlights of the Maison’s therapeutic approach: clay and essential oils are used judiciously in concert with the medical treatment, as are health activities led by competent volunteers, such as massage, reiki, yoga, and qi gong. It was a pleasure to take advantage of these services as I convalesced, and they were essential in my second goal of “rebuilding,” or putting right the things that were going wrong in my life.
This whole aspect of psychological and indeed spiritual rebuilding was a significant bonus along with my biological recovery. And I want to emphasize how well I was supported in this. Ten months after leaving the Maison, as I write these lines I am extremely proud of myself for having had the courage to express this need and taking charge of what was indeed my deeper healing process. Thank you so much to the caregivers, who had the sensitivity and skill to accompany me through this process, which is still going on and is bringing me back to life.
Claude – 55-59 years old – Montreal