My Hospice. A Program that Works. A Benefit that Matters. November is National Hospice Month and this year’s theme was designed to complement the My Hospice Campaign launched earlier this year. My Hospice is a campaign to reinforce the value of the Medicare hospice benefit among policy and healthcare decision makers to foster a policy environment that will support patient access to high quality, comprehensive hospice and palliative care.
“I wish you would have had a chance to meet a very special man, Jesse Wise. He was a proud man from Granite City, Illinois, where he and his beautiful wife, Alene, raised their 5 children and were married for over 60 years. You won’t read about Jesse in a history book. He led a good life, but not an elaborate one. A proud long-time employee of Granite City Steel, he worked hard and came home every night to be with his family. His daughter, Paula, has been my best friend for many years.
In 2003, I started my career with Hospice of Southern Illinois. I was so excited about starting someplace that was driven by a mission of assisting people during the end-of-life in the communities I love. The first six months on the job I was learning and experiencing what hospice care truly was. Then in July of that first year, it became personal, as Jesse, the man I respected and loved so much, came into our program. My best friend’s dad, the man who was not my dad but did things for me that were very “dad-like.” For example, he helped me with college, because at 28, I decided I needed my degree. I remember when I said, “Jesse I am going to be 32 when I graduate,” he replied, “You are going to be 32 anyway, so go get your degree.” That was a typical response from the man we all loved. Growing up without my father in my life, while I did have an awesome grandpa, Jesse was always there to love and support me, in a fatherly way.
Prior to my starting at Hospice of Southern Illinois, Jesse had a complication in surgery that resulted in paralysis from the neck down. He spent from Halloween, 2002 to Easter, 2003 in the hospital/rehab facility. Upon his release from the hospital, he moved into a villa that was entirely handicap accessible. Jesse was continually surrounded by all those who loved him, including those involved in his nursing care. I will never forget July 1, 2003. I had been on the job for almost 7 months. I knew what my company did; however, on this date, my job changed and so did my understanding of end-of-life care. This day when I came into his room for a visit he said to me, “Lisa, honey, I am so tired.” He was very sick and uncomfortable. Jesse was now suffering from liver failure.
The decision to call Hospice of Southern Illinois was made. My co-worker, Mary, came to admit Jesse. She worked to get his physical symptoms under control quickly. Jesse was a loved man and all of us wanted to make sure that he had everything he needed to be comfortable. Mary did something else I didn’t expect and it was so powerful! She asked Jesse, “Is there anything else?” Sometimes we as caregivers are so consumed with physical signs and symptoms, we can overlook the personal side. Jesse was still Jesse. So when Mary asked that question, he answered, “I would love to see my flagpole.” Arrangements were made that day so that Jesse could see his beloved flagpole. During his time in hospice care, Jesse’s care team made sure he was comfortable and at peace. They made sure his loved ones were supported by the compassion they showed each of us. Jesse passed away on July 7, 2003. He was surrounded by all those he loved. He died pain free. He died being able to see his flagpole.
My job dramatically changed during those 7 days. Seven days does not sound like a very long timeframe; however, when you are sitting with someone you love, it is those everlasting memories you share as they are dying that make such a huge impact. I saw firsthand what Hospice of Southern Illinois does, the truly compassionate care my co-workers provided, the support to all of his caregivers, and the respect and dignity they gave to our dear Jesse. And, do you know what else I realized? Jesse was no different from every other individual that Hospice of Southern Illinois serves. Each one is treated with compassion, dignity, and respect. Each one is asked, “Is there anything else?” Not only is this made possible by the dedicated care team, but also you, as a donor.”
Lisa Phillipson, Hospice of Southern Illinois’ Community Education Manager
Thank you for making this possible to ask, “Is there anything else?” Pledge your donation for Jesse, for others, and for your loved ones on www.hospice.org/donate.