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One Last Summer

A Day of Reckoning

How Palliative Care Can Make a Difference

In Gabe Catalfo's case, palliative measures helped ease a difficult passage.

During his last two weeks, a hospice nurse visited Gabe at home. He got a backpack-sized device that allowed him to self-administer doses of the powerful pain reliever fentanyl at will. Blood transfusions were performed at home. Phil Catalfo even arranged for a Tibetan lama to visit and soothe Gabe's spirit.

Eventually, Gabe grew weaker, stopped eating, and started drifting in and out of consciousness. It was a heartbreaking time, and yet his father describes Gabe's death as peaceful, the two of them holding hands one evening as Gabe lay on the sofa.

Later that night, Gabe's sister, Jessamine, had a dream about her brother. Was it easy to die, she asked him?

Yes, he answered, it was -- just like breathing. "And then he said, 'It feels so good to walk again.'"

Beatrice Motamedi is a health and medical writer based in Oakland, Calif., who has written for Hippocrates, Newsweek, Wired, and many other national publications.

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