After 47 days in intensive care at Royal Inland Hospital, Ric Egan asked his care team to help him leave this world – with hope and in victory.
Ric had been in and out of RIH since he became a quadriplegic 30 years ago in a dirt bike accident. Despite those enormous physical challenges, he maintained a zest for living.
This year, however, his health took a rapid decline and he made a decision. He wanted to marry the love of his life and then he wanted to die at home.
The man whom friends and family describe as having great respect for life, along with a quick wit, infectious laugh and a pinch of spicy temper, was ready.
A duty to care
The wedding ceremony in the hospital’s Sacred Space, led by RIH spiritual health lead Viktor Gundel, was organized despite the complexities of a pandemic.
The second wish was a bigger challenge for the team of nurses, doctors, and allied health who had spent many years trying to keep Ric alive and on the road to recovery.
But, as they reminded themselves, their first duty always is to the patient, respecting patient choices and supporting their wishes.
“Isn’t this what we do? We care, we heal, we dream with our patients and we restore their hope amidst their brokenness. It helps us to heal in return,” said Viktor.
Ric and Helena might have had a storybook ending. Forty-two years ago, they were sweethearts and soulmates, but then life journeys took them in different directions. They both got married to other people and later divorced. Twelve years ago, they reconnected.
“His devotion to Helena, his family and close friends was so evident in his struggles – all governed by an independent spirit and desire for dignity,” said Viktor.
Helena said she is so grateful to the ICU team and Viktor for their support. Customizing his care was uncharted territory for them. For weeks, the full team had to break new ground to sustain his quality of life.
“They were absolutely wonderful in what they did for him,” said Helena. “And when we went down to the Sacred Space, every single staff member came out of each room to applaud and cheer. They even held signs of best wishes and Ric told me he felt like a king.”
Ric’s care team
During the wedding celebration, ICU nurse Cecilee Moray represented his core team of nurses, reading the words of Louise Desilets, another RN who had cared for him.
“Ric, you are getting married, you are going home to Merritt and you are making the choices about your life. Your mind is clear and strong and independent, and this is why you have not lost. It is why you are winning in life to the end.”
As they lined the halls to bid him farewell for the last time, it was a bittersweet moment for the ICU care team who had all become family to him.
“What people may not realize is how meeting our patients’ requests and care needs also inspires medical staff,” said ICU manager Matt Stubbings.
His last wish
RN Sean Adam from the High Acuity Response Team (HART) oversaw the complex needs required for the transfer to Merritt. Respiratory therapist Tannis Gilbert also travelled with Ric, ensuring his comfort on the hour-long journey.
“Tannis was incredibly supportive and willing to do whatever was needed for him,” said Matt.
He added that there was a united goal among all staff to help him go back home, to transition his life in peace and allow him to die with dignity and free of pain. For the ICU team, it was an honour to support his final wishes.
Ric passed peacefully that evening with medical assistance.
In Viktor’s words, “Ric’s journey was one of perseverance, gusto for life, and life with dignity.”
“I have lived to see a lot of a human journey, but I might add that this will stay with me and with many in ICU for years to come. Ric has left much more to us than we had to give him. His story and spirit reflects the paradoxes and complexities of a human life.”
Spiritual Health Lead Viktor Gundel