Sometimes, tough situations affect good people. Working in hospice, we see this every day. Through no fault of their own, individuals and families are faced with extremely difficult situations so, hospice care was founded on the principle that a patient is more than just a diagnosis. Patients are individuals with unique medical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs. They are a father or mother; a sister or brother; a loved one or friend. For that reason, hospice care uses a team of different disciplines, structured to care for the holistic needs of individuals facing terminal illnesses and their families.
One family learned the importance of utilizing the entire hospice team earlier this year. Jamie Perkins, the CNA supervisor for Bennettsville, was providing care for a patient who only chose to have medical and CNA services. During one of their visits, he opened up to Jamie about his wish of seeing his son again before he passed away. However, his son is currently located in a federal institution and is unable to travel. Because of his rapid decline, our patient never had the opportunity to tell his son about his terminal illness and worried he never would get the chance.
Upon hearing of this patient’s regret, Jamie easily could have just made a soothing remark to empathize with the patient, but she did not sweep this last wish under the rug. Jamie immediately picked up the phone and contacted our social worker, Melonie, and asked if there was anything that could be done. This one phone call set a series of events in motion, which took place over the course of just four days.
After speaking with Jamie, Melonie immediately contacted the federal institution and explained the situation. The institution was sympathetic, but they were unable to bend from their rules. Visitation could be arranged but was dependent on the patient being able to make the 11-hour round trip and the requirement that the patient come off of his pain medication while at the institution.
With this information, Gary Day, a patient care coordinator with Embrace Hospice, sat down with the patient and explained the circumstances of such a trip. He explained that due to the patient’s disease, even the smallest movement without pain medication could be extremely painful. The patient sat back and with tears in his eyes and stated that he understood the risks, but that there is nothing a parent will not do for their child and no pain they will not endure.
With the patient completely onboard, the Embrace team began working on a plan to make his wish come true. The initial thought was to for Melonie and Jamie to take the day off and use a van to make the trip, but upon further consideration, we realized due to the patient’s condition, a medical transport would be needed. An 11-hour trip would be very expensive, and after explaining the situation to eighteen ambulance companies, the best price that could be offered was $4,500. Despite the team being dejected, they never gave up and called a nineteenth company. That company was HeartLine Ambulance Service out of Cheraw, South Carolina. Michelle of HeartLine Ambulance Service listened to the situation and said, “Give me a few hours.”
While the team waited for the return phone call, prayers were being offered throughout the entire company that somehow this trip could occur. When the phone rang, we were elated to find that our prayers had been answered. Michelle said that her company was touched by the story and would be happy to provide the ambulance and an EMT for a fraction of the cost. An explosion of cheers erupted from inside the Embrace office and team quickly began working on finalizing the travel plan.
Kelli McHugh, Director of Open Arms Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Embrace Hospice, quickly pushed the funding request through and one week later, the patient’s wish came true as he spent the afternoon with his son one more time.
A special thank you to HeartLine Ambulance Service for helping us make this incredible moment a reality. For more information on Heartline Ambulance Service, please visit: www.heartlinecheraw.com.
For more information on Open Arms Foundation and the Last Wish Program, please visit: www.openarmsfoundation.net