A New Beginning: My Journey Through Hospice

The majority of my teenage years have been spent volunteering in various locations with countless amounts of people, but the Seasons Hospice volunteer program is definitely one of the most meaningful and inspiring volunteer opportunities I have ever experienced. When I was accepted to this program, I knew it was going to change my outlook on everything, especially the way I view certain aspects of life as well as medicine. I was eager to begin my journey about learning the ways of hospice and palliative care, and saw this as an opportunity to learn as well as strengthen my skills for my future career as a doctor.
When I first started volunteering with Seasons, it took a few weeks before I was permanently placed with a patient whom I visited consistently. I was bounced around from patient to patient during the commencement of my experience, which I didn’t mind since I was able to get to know several patients, but I was wondering when I would finally make a special connection with someone. After spending time with several different patients, each for only one day, I finally met MB, whom I formed a very meaningful relationship with and visited consistently. The first few visits, MB didn’t seem to know who I was or why I was there, which I expected, but she eventually warmed up to me towards the end of our visits. After I had visited and spent time with her on several occasions, it really started to feel like she remembered who I was and was excited to see me each week.
I have never had much experience with anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s, but MB was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to spend time with and get to know. I’ve spent countless hours with her either doing puzzles, looking at books, playing with dominos, painting her nails, or just simply talking to her about her life, and each time it felt like we built a stronger bond. On one visit MB told me that she really needed the time we spend together, and that it is good for her. It made me feel immensely special and important – as if I was making an impact on her life. MB never fails to put me in a good mood or make me laugh at some of the things she says, and I feel truly blessed having gotten the opportunity to get to know her and spend time with her. Each visit, I can see how lonely and sad some patients seem, so it is an incredible feeling to know that I am making MB feel like she is not alone and has someone who cares about her, which I had to assure her of one time when she was upset.
My favorite part about this entire experience is that not only do I know I’ve made a significant impact on MB’s life, but she has also done the same for me, and has impacted me in the most positive and uplifting of ways. This experience has significantly affected me in the sense that it has definitely made me view everything in a more positive light, and that there is more to life than I often get so absorbed in during my daily routine. It is easy to be upset about a bad test grade or the end of a relationship, all trivial things in life, but when I visit MB and sit down and talk with her, it makes me forget all of the insignificant things I tend to dwell on. It brings me back to focusing on what is actually important; she helps me to be grateful for the life that I have, rather than focusing on the negatives. My experience has also taught me the importance of going out of my way in order to put someone else first. Knowing that MB needs and relies on me to be there for her, this experience has taught me how to recognize and prioritize the more important things in life. Yes, I could be hanging out with my friends on any given afternoon, but knowing that visiting MB for merely an hour would mean the world to her, helps me to reevaluate the true meaning and purpose for the things we do in life.
Not only has my experience changed my perspective and taught me valuable lessons, but it has also influenced my career as a future doctor as well as an understanding of medicine. I think this experience opened my eyes to not seeing hospice as a reason for medicine failing, but rather an opportunity for doctors to provide alternate care to make the patient as comfortable as possible in their time of need. Hospice is not a final destination, but rather the embracing of a new journey into a new spiritual life. It has also helped me to cope with and understand that even as a doctor, there are simply some illnesses that medicine cannot cure, so the important thing for me to remember in my future career is to not feel guilty or put the blame on myself when one of my patients’ only option is to be transitioned into hospice. If anything, I’ve learned that hospice is not a death sentence, but rather a new beginning, especially after a long and fulfilling life, and that I should not blame myself in my future career if the situation arises that I am unable to cure someone. I think this experience will immensely benefit me in that retrospect, since I tend to take everything to heart and but the blame on myself whenever certain situations do not unfold as planned. This experience has definitely opened my eyes and has, and will continue to, positively affect me in my daily life, and in my future career.