Image by h.koppdelaney via FlickrFriday was my last day of training to be a volunteer for Hospice by the Bay. It's been quite an experience, as we've covered all the subjects necessary to prepare us to support the patient and their family in the last six months of their life. I've had to attend almost 40 hours of class, which was spread across one month, which was good as it gave us time to reflect upon what we learned.
The reason I signed up to be a volunteer is two fold. First, when my dad was dying of cancer in 2003, a hospice nurse came to our home and helped my mom and I care for him in those last months. I had no idea that hospice existed but was amazed at the compassionate care they provided. In addition to providing all the equipment my dad needed (hospital bed, emergency meds, cane, etc.) for free, our hospice nurse came to our house regularly to help us understand the process of death - including the physical, mental and spiritual processes. I don't know what I would have done without hospice. It was truly a blessing. I had always wanted to give back, but never seemed to find the time.
Five years later, I was strolling the halls of Marin General with my IV bag and hospital gown when I met a nurse who told me he had witnessed several deaths and now has a different perspective on life. We talked a lot about how so many of us get caught up in the minutia of life and miss the beauty that's right in front of our nose. While I wasn't feeling so great since I was recovering from my surgery, I did realize I was very lucky to have love, friends, family, a beautiful home, and so many other wonderful things. I vowed then that after I healed, I would volunteer my time. And given I had just lost the ability to have a baby since my uterus had been removed, I decided that since I couldn't bring a life into this world, I could help a life exit this world. Hence, hospice.
My next step is another interview with the hospice team, a background check, and attendance at a transdiscipliary team meeting where the nurse, doctor, spiritual counselor, etc. all gather to review the patient cases. Assuming I pass, I'll probably have my first patient next year.