I first met Robin, a 53-year-old ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patient, when JourneyCare began caring for her about two years ago. I was welcomed in Robin’s home to make weekly visits. I instantly hit it off with Robin and always look forward to my weekly visits with her.
A nurse by trade long retired, I missed that special contact caregivers have with their patients. So when I heard of JourneyCare’s CNA Assist program ̶ to partner closely with certified nursing assistants to care for hospice patients ̶ I signed up immediately. From my very first shadow shift, I knew I had made the right choice.
I have the privilege of comforting patients with my presence, my skills and the assistance of a supportive staff from whom I learn something new every time I volunteer.
This year Linda celebrates 50 years as a registered nurse. Retired from active practice, Linda has since acquired two certifications in Emergency Management and maintains her CPR instructor status teaching the staff at Northwest Community Hospital. Linda also sits on the JourneyCare Volunteer Advisory Council, represents the volunteer department at the Amber IDT and serves as camp nurse for Camp Courage.
Rick Davis is a graduate of Purdue University who has lived in Evanston for 40 years. He is a retired Registered Representative who worked in financial services. Davis served four years in the Marine Corps, including two tours in the Vietnam War. He is married to his high school sweetheart and they have been together more than 50 years. Some of his past volunteer work includes participation in the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum's educational outreach program. Here he shared with high school and college students of American history what it was like to be in a combat zone in Vietnam as a 20-year-old – a talk he has given to more than 25,000 people. He is a contributor to the book “Once a Marine” by Claude DeShazo, a collection of stories by veterans about how their Marine Corps experience impacted their lives.
In addition to his volunteer work at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, Davis has been a civic volunteer for Heifer International, promoting the humanitarian work of this nonprofit organization. He led discussion groups for the Northwest Earth Institute, educating others on issues surrounding the environment. He has also been a supporter of America Saves, a campaign to encourage people to return to those long forgotten habits of frugality, thrift, moderation, self-discipline, delayed gratification and patience. He has also volunteered at the Presbyterian Retirement Home in Evanston, as well as Hillside Food Pantry.
Rick and his wife, Sheila, have traveled to more than 20 countries. They have hiked the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, Pyrenees, Andes and Himalayas. They have seen the King of Bhutan and King of Cambodia. The duo has traveled up the Mekong Delta to Angkor Wat, sailed up the Nile in Egypt, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and hiked through Tuscany, and explored Patagonia. A highlight of their travels was climbing Mt. Killimanjaro and then experiencing an African safari on the Serengeti.
As a Marine veteran who served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, I’m well-aware of the sacrifices our men and women make to serve their country in the armed forces. And as a hospice volunteer who works primarily with veterans, I’m able to express my gratitude to veterans for their service in multiple ways.
Time visiting with a veteran and his or her family ̶ the sharing of stories and experiences ̶ are some of the most precious moments in my life. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fi, meaning always faithful to God, country, and your fellow marine. Well, JourneyCare's volunteer program enables me to carry out that mission not only to other marines but to all veterans.
My beloved late husband, who died November 11, 2014, was in the care of JourneyCare in our home for the last four days of his life. Coming from Serbia, neither one of us knew much about this health service, except that we were both scared by the word “hospice!” We associated it with the end of life and we were both horrified.
“Please don’t mention the word hospice,” I begged a social worker, who later helped both of us a great deal. “No worries, nobody likes that word,” she told me with a hug like a sister, and sympathy deep in her eyes.
Hospice therapy pets, like the sweet miniature therapy horses that visit our Hospice CareCenters, bring love, laughter and comforting companionship to those on the end-of-life journey. Visits from these furry volunteers and their handlers provide patients with a welcome distraction from illness and help them feel more relaxed.
Becoming a volunteer for JourneyCare, doing pet therapy, has been a high point in my life.
JourneyCare volunteer Steve Crews was a lifelong writer and communicator. He worked as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, deputy press secretary with former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, an executive with two international public relations firms, and head of communications with Hallmark Cards and later, with Alberto Culver Corp. He was an Army vet, married and the father of two.
Steve was a much beloved JourneyCare volunteer who was always willing to do anything we asked of him. He was a patient care volunteer, a reception volunteer at two different desks on two different days, sat on our Veterans’ Advisory Council, helped at community health fairs and wrote numerous posts for our JourneyCare blog.
Steve died in November in our care, with friends and family nearby.
Below is the last piece Steve wrote for us, which his family is allowing us to share in his honor.
He is greatly missed.
Like My Uncle Ed
When I die, I want to go like my uncle Ed, a quiet guy with a blue-collar job at a local newspaper and a love of fresh water fishing. He was a man who never got excited. Pleased? Impatient? Sure. He was not without emotion. But excited? Not that I ever saw. Still, sitting in his chair, sipping an Edelweiss beer and reading the paper, he was always in control. If a problem arose, he was the one who solved it.
As a hospice lead volunteer coordinator, I have the privilege of working with amazing people who do amazing things every day. These real life superheroes spend countless hours with our staff, patients and families, making a real difference in the final moments of someone’s life. Their super power is their ability to transform lives through compassionate care.
While the death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult times, the holidays can compound our sense of loss and isolation. When we're experiencing the pain of grief, the last thing we want to do is participate in any kind of holiday celebration. We want the pain to end, and we can’t imagine being around others at a time that is supposed to be full of joy when we are so burdened with sorrow.
This is a normal way to feel, but since we can’t cut out the calendar from late October through early Januaryof the next year, it might be helpful to modify our plans, and most especially to take good care of ourselves.
Consider the following suggestions: