Service a valuable resource to the dying and their families

July 14, 2004|TRACI JONES

Heritage Hospice is a very special non-profit organization that touches so many lives in our community. Until you need its services for a family member, friend or even yourself, you just don't realize it even exists.

But, behind the scenes, in Mercer, Boyle, Lincoln and Garrard counties, there are angels administering care, helping families in their times of need. My family is one of those families that has been served in Mercer County by these angels, and I would like to share one of my multiple experiences with you.

My father was a farmer and cattle hauler who worked hard for his living. He had not been feeling well, but as most men, he didn't like going to the doctor. But, after having two accidents in his truck and some blackout spells, we were concerned.

On that Friday evening in late October, we made him go to the hospital in Lexington. While he was there, over several days and many tests, they found that he had Stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. After a short stay, the doctor decided that he could come home, but he had to start taking radiation treatments to shrink the tumors in his brain. There were no options available to him to improve his lungs. It was too late.


At that point, they felt like his prognosis was to lead his life as well as he could and the doctor told him he had 6-12 months to live. Feeling OK at the time, he went home and started to get his house in order, while taking his treatments.

We tried to have a wonderful Thanksgiving, with all of the family there. The food had never tasted better and we cherished every moment. Dad had lost most of his hair and he loved for us to rub his head, so we obliged him, enjoying his laughter.

Shortly after that day, his health started to diminish and he was put back in the hospital. After being in the hospital most of December, Dad asked to come home on Dec. 20. He wanted to come home to his beloved farm and family for the remainder of his life.

Distraught, I called Heritage Hospice looking for help in making his wish of coming home true. We struggled with how we were going to take care of him alone, but after my phone call, I was assured that we would not have to worry any longer.

Within hours, they had delivered and set up a bed, with everything else we needed. All I had to do was open the door and everything else was done. A nurse was scheduled to come and visit with us as soon as he came home later that day.

When Dad got home, I wish I could describe the joy on his face. The entire family was there to greet him and we were fixing a feast fit for a king. After he ate, we got him into bed and he decided that he would like to be able to look out the windows of the living room. So, we began to roll him around the room in the bed. He kept directing us and we ended up rolling him around in circles several times before he ended up where he wanted. What a memory. With so much laughter erupting from us all and grandkids everywhere, we were in fine shape when the nurse arrived.

The nurse was very nice and explained everything to Dad and helped him make choices on his wishes for medical care. We were all informed on how nurses, a social worker, volunteers and a chaplain were all available to us and a schedule would be set.

Not only did they offer help for Dad, but the family as well. I never knew such a valuable resource was available to everyone with one phone call. Heritage Hospice was the answer to my prayer. And because of them, we all shared a wonderful evening together, one in which the memories would last a lifetime.

The next morning, very early, my siblings and I received a panicked call from my mother. My dad had sat up in the bed and then had stopped breathing. It was his wish not to be resuscitated and that was not to be. We rushed to the house and he had already passed away.

Heritage Hospice rushed over and helped us through the difficult morning. What would we have done without them, if only for one night? One filled with laughter and joy, so close to Christmas time, that could never had been realized without their help.

Although I call them angels, the staff of Heritage Hospice, Inc. is people just like us all. Their devotion and dedication of loving care touches many lives every day. They have many programs available to those in need, not only with cancer patients, but for anyone who has a life-limiting illness with a prognosis of six months or less.

Since that one day at Christmas time many years ago, I have become a Heritage Hospice volunteer, working on the Community and Professional Advisory Committee and the board of directors. We are starting this column as an outreach to the communities we serve and to educate the general public on the programs that hospice provides.

Call hospice at (859) 236-2425 or (800) 203-6633.

Central Kentucky News Articles