Then, like now

by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Communities of Faith Liaison

Past-Present-and-Future-signsA couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ruth Loucks and Mary Nelson, two women who live at Plantation Estates in Matthews.  I met Ruth when I spoke at her women’s circle at Providence United Methodist Church last fall, and was most interested when she shared her experience of being a volunteer nurse with Hospice at Charlotte (our name before we became HPCCR) beginning in 1980.  Ruth and Mary continued their service with the organization for an additional 20 years as volunteer nurses.

The HPCCR office was housed in several buildings in Charlotte before we arrived on 7th Street.  The first office was at the old Charlotte hospital, the second was at a Presbyterian church on 5th Street, and third location was at the Plaza Building in the Plaza/Midwood area.  Ruth and Mary remembered Sharon Dixon, who served as the lead nurse, Dr. Bob Fenning who was our first physician, and Hunt Williams who was the volunteer chaplain.  As we do now, the staff met every Wednesday to discuss the patients.  They started out with just three patients and quickly moved to five patients.  Ruth and Mary were surprised to learn we now have close to 600 patients in all of our eight counties!

Ruth told me that the volunteer nurses were also on-call, and when the phone call came in the middle of the night to see a patient, she would call another nurse, as they visited in pairs (after hours).  Ruth recalled on many evenings, they would end their visit with a stop at Krispy Kreme Donuts on Independence Blvd in the wee hours of the morning.

Ruth and Mary had a number of memories: “The minute you walked into the house, you became a part of the family.  You’d sit down and just talk.”  “This was the most gratifying thing I’ve done my whole life (except for raising my son).”  “The patients always made me feel better.”  “It was so rewarding.”  “The patients were so appreciative…”  “The entire experience was a plus!”

When I asked what the challenges were, they both agreed, “It was not challenging.  It was pure joy.”

Having served the organization for the last seven and a half years, first as a chaplain and grief counselor, and now as the Communities of Faith Liaison, I realize a number of things have changed, like the sheer number of patients that are seen by HPCCR and the number of staff needed to address patients’ needs.  However, the compassion, competency, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make a patient comfortable has not changed.  Then, like now, the first task is always “to relieve suffering and to improve the quality and dignity of life through compassionate hospice care.”   Then, like now, families have many issues to deal with, but the staff’s willingness to talk and to listen without judgment brings hope to the families we serve.

So, on behalf of HPCCR, thank you to Ruth Loucks and Mary Nelson and to the many, many others who chose to volunteer for our patients and their families, especially in the early days of hospice care.   Now, as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a brand new year, we are thankful for all of our staff and volunteers alike who make a difference each day by providing excellent end-of-life care and education to our families and to the community.

Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, hospice, spiritual care, volunteering

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