Opportunity to Grow
When my mother, Stasy Heile, entered Midwest CareCenter's hospice suite at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, I was certain she was near the end. Mom had experienced a hemorrhage in her brain and was in an unresponsive state. My five siblings and I stood vigil with her 24/7 and I was probably there the most, so I got to see the hospice unit in action and I was blown away. The empathy, care and compassion – we were just overwhelmed with love from these people who had never met us.
After seven days in the suite, Mom became responsive and began to ask for food. Soon, she was able to return home to us with the help of Midwest CareCenter staff. At home, she continued receiving support from the staff and she was able to start walking with the help of a walker and eat on her own. Mom even got well enough to be discharged from hospice care, something that doesn't happen often.
When Mom got her second lease on life, it was such a wonderful experience. She reconnected with all of us in a new way and I credit Midwest CareCenter for helping to make this possible.
After six months, however, Mom's health declined again and Midwest CareCenter staff cared for her in home hospice, with a team that included her doctor, nurse, a certified nursing assistant, a chaplain and a vigil with a music-thanatologist. Mom died at age 91 peacefully in her home, surrounded by so many of us – her children and care team.
I can't even describe the impact they had on our family. It was just incredible. And once it was over, I wanted to know how I could give back.
During all the years I lived in Arlington Heights (with a recent move to Lake Barrington) I had always volunteered with my church. But after my experience with Mom, I wanted to branch out and volunteer at the hospice suite at Northwest Community Hospital.
I decided I wanted to be there because that unit is amazing. When people think of Midwest CareCenter, they always think of its beautiful pavilion in Glenview. I don't think residents in the Arlington Heights area are aware of the great work that goes one there.
It's a hidden gem, and the hospice suite at Northwest Community needs more volunteers to provide administrative help for staff, to spend time with patients for companionship and comfort, and to greet families who are visiting the suite.
There is so much opportunity there to grow and care for people, and sometimes it doesn't even require words. It's just holding a hand, saying a prayer or giving a hug to a crying daughter.
After about six months of helping at the suite, I just began work last month as an official employee for Midwest CareCenter as an administrative assistant. But I agreed to accept the position on one condition: that I could continue my volunteer work.
It's become an important part of my life and I feel so fulfilled. I know if other people knew about this, they would also find such joy in it.
That's why I'm joining several volunteers other who will share their stories and answer questions for prospective new volunteers at a volunteer informational session from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, January 15, at Lutheran Homes, 800 W. Oakton St., Arlington Heights.
Though I work with patients and provide administrative support, there are many other ways volunteers can help. I hope you'll join us or share this with someone who is interested in hospice.