‘I never thought I’d do hospice’

Nurses, staff talk about what led them to hospice care and the impact of patients

By Kacie Goode | Excerpt from the Kentucky Standard

This is the second in a series about Hospice of Nelson County, a look at those who are dying and the individuals who care for them in those final moments.

For many who go into the medical field, work is about saving lives. But for those who work in hospice care, it’s about improving them to the very last moment.

“It’s almost like it was a divine draw here,” said LeighAnne Wimsett, who has served as a coordinator for Hospice of Nelson County for four years. “It’s not something I thought I would ever want to do.”

In addition to making staff members think differently about health care, working in hospice has also left them with new experiences and an appreciation for life.

Eva

Sister Eva Kowalski started volunteering with Hospice eight years ago, after moving to the area from Florida.

“I was looking for a ministry, and I chose hospice,” Kowalski said. “The moment I walked in, I knew it was a place I would want to be of service. I was impressed by the staff and the dedication to their patients.”

Over the years, Kowalski has become directly involved with some of the patients, sitting with them as she relieved caregivers for brief periods of time. Seeing how hard families work to care for loved ones, she said, a break is sometimes what they need. But she’s also been there to observe the inherent bond between families.

She recalled a patient she would sit with who was paralyzed, and how her daughters would come to visit. One visit in particular stands out.

“It was so beautiful,” she said. “She raised her mother up in bed, and she embraced her. She took her mother’s arms and had her mother embrace her. She looked at her mom and said, “Momma, I love you. Momma, I know you love me, but I love you more.’ It was just a mother and daughter who had a beautiful relationship with each other, and it showed, even in death.”

For Kowalski, it’s those moments with families and with patients that brings about the beauty in her volunteerism. Connecting with others has come naturally to the SCN for years, and hospice is another way to do that.

“Being present to people, in any way, is the most important thing,” she said. “If I can be present to a person that’s dying, 100 percent, that’s the gift I give them.”