Hospice – Abiding Presence and Promise
Posted by E. Dennis Murphy, MD, FACP
This hospice, this wonderful, caring, abiding presence in all our days, humbled me in 1979. It continues to do so, even as I express my gratitude to it as a superb caring entity, which is superbly represented by each and every one, a caregiver, directly and indirectly.
In 1979, Paul Wise, a new patient to me, informed me in his initial visit that he had recently lost his wife. Later, after his physical examination, he asked if I knew the name Cicely Saunders. My first thought was, "His wife has just died and already he wants me to know of his new lady friend." But fortunately a second thought came in, Isn't she an English woman? Something about "Hospice" or some such? Care at home at the end of life?
"Yes, that's right," Paul responded. "You see, my wife had cancer, and both she and I wanted her to die in our own home. It was difficult to impossible to do so with all her medical needs. So some of the ladies of the North Shore and I are founding a hospice, and you are going to be our medical advisor."
"Good grief, Paul," I said. "I'm and Internist and Endocrinologist. I could barely get the word 'Hospice' out, and you are asking me to help?"
"We are," he said. "You have told me that you make house calls. You have common sense. You are known here, and I like the way you conduct yourself."
I looked over my shoulder to see whom Paul was addressing. But there was no one else there.
He went on."We are about to start hiring. We want to be able to ask you about the medical appropriateness of our decisions and planning as we go forward."
"Okay," I replied. "I am on board."
And so it went. Four of the first seven patients to the newly named Hospice of the North Shore were from my practice. Far better physicians than I came to be involved – including Dr. Harry Miller as Medical Advisor, the hiring of Dr. Martha Twaddle as Medical Director, and then the additions of Dr. Alan Smookler and more recently Dr. Gordon Wood, all nationally known for their hospice and palliative care work. These outstanding clinicians created an organization that remains an abiding presence and the best healthcare organization I have ever known. It has grown to serve over 400 patients daily, numbering in the thousands every year.
This organization's focus on the patient led appropriately to expansion into palliative care, emphasizing family and loved one's involvement and need for support wherein life is viewed as a continuum, with care at home until the time of death, giving always presence and promise.
Our strengths – knowledge, experience, service and care are seen throughout the organization;
Our volunteers (currently over 650) are the most praised group of volunteers I have ever known.
Our clinical personnel – social workers, nurses, nursing assistants, nurse practitioners and physicians – are superb. Clergy add breadth and depth. And our music therapists, music-thanatologists and other integrative therapies enhance life even more.
Administrators, from first Chief Executive Dottie Pitner Healy to current CEO Jamie O'Malley, and support personnel at all levels also are of the best, helping the organization achieve Top 100 Workplace distinction by the Chicago Tribune three years in a row.
This Board – widely experienced and professional in background, perhaps touched personally in times of past need, appropriately chosen to advise on endeavors, services and organization, watch over with presence and promise.
So, with humility, gratitude, and insufficiency on my part, I say "thank you" to this best organization. As our patients might say, in parallel to a prayer:
For the gift of joy
In the days of health and strength.
And for the gift of your daily
abiding, presence and promise
In days of pain and grief...
I thank you.