Friday, May 19, 2006

Exceptional People in a One-Horse Town, Part I

One must not necessarily live in a major metropolitan center to meet some really exceptional people. There may be a gazillion such people in such a city, but how many do you really get to know well. The people to be featured in a series of blogs are just a few of the exceptional people I have the honor of knowing in my home town.

First, and foremost, there is my bride of almost 38 years. Putting up with me for that long is, in itself, a reason to be listed among the exceptional. She is a nurse. Appropriately enough she was a psychiatric nurse when we met. I guess that is what attracted her to me. She correctly diagnosed me as being just a little bit crazy. While I was in medical school she worked on the Clinical Research Unit of North Carolina Memorial Hospital, UNC, Chapel Hill. There she worked with kidney dialysis patients, when hemodialysis was in its infancy and the hemodialysis machines were the size of your average home washing machine. She was a member of the specialized medical team that took care of the first kidney transplant patients at NCMH-CH. She was a medical pioneer. During my internship/residency at Medical University of South Carolina, she continued her work on the dialysis unit and with kidney transplant patients there.

While I was in the Army in Germany for 3 years, when we went back to Chapel Hill for another year of residency, and after we moved back to my hometown, she pursued that most demanding and underappreciated occupation, being a full-time wife/mother, for several years. She also taught at our local church Kindergarten while our children were enrolled there. But, her main job was that of a housewife. However, her love for nursing beckoned, and she answered in a special way.

Over 20 years ago, she along with two other southern ladies had a dream, a vision…a Hospice Program for our community. No one around here had even heard of Hospice. Thus, twenty years ago the local not-for-profit Hospice was born on our back porch. She was the first, and for a period of time, the only Hospice employee (nurse, administrator, secretary, etc.). With the help of a small cadre of volunteers, United Way funding, and individual donations of money and second-hand office equipment, she made it go. Remember, these were the days prior to insurance and Medicare reimbursement for hospice services. The program was completely dependent on charitable contributions. Hospice had its infancy in a single upstairs room in our church’s Sunday school building and in the back of her station wagon.

Under her leadership and nurture as Executive Director, that single-employee enterprise has grown to a very successful not-for-profit Hospice now in competition with the newcomers, the for-profit Hospices. Its programs and services are available to people in need regardless of race, creed, religious preferences, or ability to pay. It now has over 60 employees, including nurses, a physician consultant, nurse's aides, psychologists, social workers, a chaplain, bereavement counselors, as well as the support, clerical, and administrative personnel. That once small cadre of volunteers now numbers in the hundreds. Continued local financial support from the community, much in the form of memorials and honorariums and support from the United Way, coupled with reimbursement for services in some cases, has enabled the Hospice program to offer new and expanded services. Each summer Camp Spinoza is conducted for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Counselors and social workers go to schools after tragic events. Speakers forums dealing with end of life issues are conducted. All the while extraordinary patient care continues on a day-to-day basis. Her Hospice program now serves our community as well as several surrounding counties in North and South Carolina, with an average daily census of over 100 patients. "HOSPICE CARES...It's not about dying, it's about living."

Hospice now occupies its own campus, Eaton Place (Named for Eaton Corporation whose Golf Pride Golf Grip Division is located here and is the major sponsor of the annual Hospice Golf Tournament-more later). On campus are the main Hospice office building and the recently completed six-bed Hospice Inpatient Unit, Morrison Manor.

All these facilities were fully funded before the groundbreakings. How? Generous local financial support from a grateful community. Foundation grants. And, the annual Eaton/Hospice Golf Tournament. That charity tournament alone has raised over 2 million dollars for the Hospice program over the last 20 years. This year's total exceeded $185,000. (The history of that golf tournament and the people who have made it succesful is worthy of a book, not simply a blog entry)

All this has been accomplished under the leadership of my bride, who still finds time for some good old-fashioned bedside nursing, wifery, and motherhood.

Nurse. Medical pioneer. Visionary. Administrator. Fund raiser. Wife. Mother. Dedicated daughter. Homemaker. Quite a remarkable person. And she lives in our little town. In fact, she lives right here. Lucky me.


Anonymous DCMASSHOLE said...

The nurses and all the people in hospice are angels. Although, my mom, a nurses aid, took care of my grandfather when he had cancer, the family got hospice when my grandmother became ill. The provide comfort for when my family became exhausted and refuse to let my mom or aunt help take care of my grandmother knowing all the hard work and care they did for after their own jobs.

Interesting how you posted this post that day that I woke up crying in my sleep saying my grandmother died. Then after a few moments I cleared my head and said wait she has been dead for a year. I still remember my mom telling me that woman coming throught the line were hospice and I gave them each a hug and thanked them for all the hard work they did. Not only did they take care of my grandparents, they also indirectly were keeping my mom and aunt mentally and physically fit. I encourage everyone to donate to these needed charitable organizations that help families in need of a helping hand

May 20, 2006  
Blogger Jason-M said...

Great post. Keep writing!

May 20, 2006  
Anonymous DCMASSHOLE said...

I realize my grammar is off. I just got back from the bar and I was in a rush to go to bed.

The people in the medical profession sacrifice their time and daily lives for he betterment of society. Most doctors that enter don't do it to get rich, they do it as a service to man and humanity. Some doctors have god like complex and others still practice door to door service although this a rarity.

Their side kicks the nurses, provide the daily care. They ask if the families or patients need anything. They are willing to talk and stay to listen when a person meanders in thought for ever, but know that if they listen it helps a worried and concern family member. I witness this many times in my life and all I know is no matter what type of nurse, doctor, and hospice care you get, they all deserve our gratitude.

May 20, 2006  
Blogger StratoCade said...

This post confirms what we've all known Doc: You have an amazing bride.

May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Emily M (ptwannabe) said...

Mom is wonderful...truly an angel. It seems like yesterday that she started the "Hospice on Wheels". That is what jason and I called it...because the "way-back" of our mini van was always occupied by Hospice equipment. So amazing that she and Hospice of Scotland County have come such a long way. Blessed are we as a family to have had her in our lives...and blessed are those that have been in her care. It just goes to show you to follow your dreams...she kept on and on....and the world is a better place. If only all people were as dedicated to helping takes a unique individual to do such tasks....strong and caring.
And I had no idea she initially worked in a psych wonder she understands me so well.....and is so patient with me when I am in one of my stress induced freak outs. It all makes sense now.

May 25, 2006  

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