Letter: Hospice appreciated

To the Editor:

Holidays are times when family members get together to make memories that last a lifetime, reminiscing about the past and making plans for the future, ending with well-wishes until they meet again to make more memories. This story begins just before the 2007 holiday season.

Our family enjoyed a beautiful October wedding in Stillwater, Okla., taking pictures throughout the day of the family as they welcomed a new member.

Letha Hughes sat proudly in the middle of the pictures, surrounded by her four children, 12 grandchildren, and many of her 21 great-grandchildren. It didn't crossed anyone's mind that the wedding would be the last time we all would be together.

Time went quickly from the moment Letha entered the hospital until the family had to make end-of-life decisions. Making such decisions are difficult at any time, but especially if the desires and wishes of the person have not been discussed or determined prior to the time of need.

After we visited with a hospital social worker, a representative of hospice (an interdisciplinary service that many people seek when curative treatment is no longer seen as likely to have a positive outcome) came to explain what services they could provide Letha and her family.

A limited life expectancy from any illness is the key factor in receiving hospice and her doctors were in agreement that further curative treatments would have minimal chance of extending life and may have caused more discomfort.

Within a few hours of making the decision to move her to Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice at the Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, the family settled her into a very comfortable warm, inviting private room. Care immediately began by a skilled team that provided clinical staffing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Letha and the family were included as part of the team, involved in each and every decision that was made.

End-of-life decisions were respected. Pain and other symptoms that can lead to discomfort were controlled and comfort was achieved. Chaplains assisted the family with spiritual needs.

Staff members, all certified and trained in hospice care and palliative medicine (providing comfort and controlling pain and troublesome symptoms), showed the family what the "care" in health care truly means by giving Letha excellent care and keeping family members who stayed with her informed of every detail. "Comfort for every moment, because every moment counts."

Hospice also provided comfort for family members who were with Letha. A private area was made available with a living room, kitchen stocked with food, meditation/quiet room, computer nook, laundry room, private bathrooms, and a shower/changing area. An extra sleeping area was set up with cots and linens.

After seven nights in the hospital, less than 30 hours in hospice care, and with family members by her side, Letha passed peacefully away.

Our Christmas holiday was not celebrated with the usual large family gathering in Letha's home and New Year's Eve was spent reminiscing and making plans for the future.

Memorials in Letha's name may be made in care of Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, 313 S. Market, Wichita 67202.

Lynn (Jones) Hughes

Carney, Okla.