coffee and carrying on

I see healthcare as a human right so volunteering at Hospice was my way of investing into the Baltimore community. In my medical career, I want to work with at risk and often neglected populations.

The first resident I formed a unique connection with was Fernando: he liked smoking, sugar and baseball. He was from Cuba just like my abuelo and though we struggled at times to speak to each other, we had a great understanding of one another. Each week we would look forward to talking together as I would push him around the track outside. We didn’t always see eye to eye, and despite our shared heritage we didn’t have a lot in common. However, Fernando certainly felt comfortable around me, expressing gratitude for our visits and telling me that I was “good people”. I learned so much about his life and his family, I even met with Veronica “his lady” as he referred to her. Other than Veronica no one visited Fernando. This was not uncommon for our patients. It made us as volunteers a much bigger part of a patients support system.

The first time Fernando used a lift to be transported into his wheelchair, I could see how vulnerable he felt. This made me understand the importance of the work that I was doing. Residents are in the last phase of their life and are vulnerable to how people would treat them. While yes, Hospice is a place that provides comfort to peoples ailments, it is also a place to offer residents dignity in their passing. Watching Fernando get weaker until he could no longer even be transferred to his chair was a difficult experience. What used to be our time to go outside turned into sitting in his room with some coffee that I would bring in from Dunkin Donuts. Eventually even this was too much for him and we would just sit and listen to music. Fernando remained remarkably strong up until his death, still hoping for one more trip around the track in his last days.

I know these experiences and relationships shape the kind of doctor I will be one day. I plan to practice compassionate care. At Hospice, we support people in the walk through their last stage of life and similarly as a doctor hope to be an important support for vulnerable people at any stage of life.