Working as an Ascend Health Hospice Volunteer has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. It has not only given me first-hand knowledge in patient care and interaction, but encouraged me to answer thought provoking questions that have changed the way I view healthcare and hospice. I have had three patients in total, although most of my time as an Ascend volunteer was spent with my first patient, Maria. I did not expect Maria to become as important to me as she did towards the end of this volunteer program. I was expecting to form good relationships with my patients, but I did not imagine forming such a close bond with them as I did with Maria. Visiting her every week became a significant part of my week. She shared a room with her brother Jacob, who I also became very close with. I also met some of her children and grandchildren, and meeting more people who were a part of her life made me closer to her.
I think a reason that Maria is very important to my Ascend experience is because she made me realize the power of a strong, meaningful human interaction. The first time I met her, she was fascinated by my name, and she thought it was beautiful and unique. Although I do not know her diagnosis, I did decipher that she suffered from some sort of amnesia as she was unable to remember me in the next few meetings. However, every time she asked me my name and I told her, she told me she remembered my name, and that she remembered me. And after that, she started to recognize me the minute I came to visit. Me and my colleague Aria became very close to her as she told us about her past, and wonderful stories from her life. We made plans to visit her one Saturday, and we were going to bring sushi for her and her brother Jacob so we could all have a nice dinner together. However, before we could do that, we found out her brother had been transferred to some other facility. It was quite heartbreaking news for me, because I knew how close Maria and Jacob were and it upset me to even wonder how Maria would carry out her day to day activities without Jacob. I was perturbed, and I was worried about her feeling alone. In a sad turn of events, Aria and I were unable to go visit Maria the Saturday that we had planned, and we decided to go Sunday instead. But she passed away that Sunday morning. It was very upsetting for me to learn of Maria’s passing. I knew she had been physically and mentally declining from my visits but her death left a hole in my heart. After that, I was unable to visit any new patients for a while as I was very overwhelmed by her death.
The reason Maria is very important in my Ascend experience is because I got to evaluate our relationship after she passed. I was happy that I had kept her company those days that I visited her and that we had spent all those good times together. Although Maria’s death was hard on me, what was important was that in the days leading to it, she had not been lonely. It gave me some peace to think that my visit with Maria along with Aria had probably kept her from being lonely in the days before she passed.
That is important because although we don’t have a choice when it comes to death – it comes no matter how hard we try to avoid it – we do have a choice in how we spend our time before it approaches. I was appreciative of the hospice program of having given Maria comfort before she parted our world. I used to consider death morbid. I will not lie and say that death seems any easier now – death will always be a loss in my eyes – but now I understand the importance of being able to have a painless, relaxed and meaningful life before death comes. I always wondered why people don’t choose to fight illnesses even when the odds are against them. Now, after this experience, I can understand the importance of choosing a path that allows one to live painlessly and peacefully before passing.
For this reason, I really liked the poems from Prompt 12. Especially the poem “Time”, I think it captured my feelings about this program and death very concisely. Because we must treat “time as a companion”, I now understand why it is so important to give patients a meaningful care system before their passing because although they are parting, it is important to treat our companion with the best care possible. In a nutshell, this program has been especially important for shaping me as a person and for giving me a fresh perspective as to why people choose hospice programs. I feel more appreciative of hospice care, and more at ease with speaking of death. I learned a lot from it, especially about patient care and how important it is to be able to communicate with them at their ease and your own. I hope this program continues to benefit others the way it has benefitted me. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity!