If you have lost a loved one who suffered through illness, then you know the effect that end-of-life challenges have not only on the patient, but on the family. The experience is stressful, emotional and often overwhelming; but for Donna Gates, hospice made the end of her husband’s life easier not only for him, but also for her and their daughter.

Donn and Rick Gates

Donna and Rick Gates

Rick Gates was a Navy chaplain before he settled down with Donna and daughter, Emma, in Virginia Beach where he was called to be the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Chesapeake. The family received devastating news in 2011, when Rick was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After attempting surgery without success, Rick and Donna decided that it was time to move him home and begin hospice.

With the help from Sentara Hospice Services, Rick received the comfort care he needed, and Donna received the help and support she needed to get through such a difficult time. Donna was overwhelmed with the amount of medical care Rick required. Their daughter, who was 11 at the time, has Down syndrome and Donna was also responsible for Emma’s around-the-clock care.

Wanda Wyatt, a hospice RN at the time, came to Donna and Rick’s home daily to help. She immediately told Donna hospice was not just about the patient, but about the entire family.

“It was a privilege working with them; they were a very loving family,” said Wanda Wyatt.

The Gates family

Rick, Emma and Donna Gates

“I remember Wanda sat me down and asked me how I was. I told her ‘Rick is good’ and ‘Rick had this happen,’ but she said ‘no, how are you doing?’ She was concerned for my welfare in addition to Rick’s which was a huge comfort,” said Donna.

“Hospice saved me. I was so overwhelmed and needed lots of explaining to understand Rick’s personal and medical needs, but the hospice workers always listened and helped me through. They were the constant in a very unstable time.”

Lorna Smith, home health aide with Sentara Home Care Services, even sang to Rick during his final days, which gave him much pleasure.

Rick and Emma Gates

The family enjoys the snow together.

“It truly was a team effort, with Lorna providing excellent personal care and lovely singing. Rick always enjoyed her visits and visibly relaxed when she was there,” said Wanda.

Sadly, Rick passed away on December 18, 2011. Donna continues to receive the benefit of hospice grief counseling which has been critical to her healing process. She and Emma live each day with joyous memories of Rick and the promise of a happy future.

Donna and Emma and many other families whose loved ones are in the hospice program receive the emotional, spiritual and medical support that they need to grieve and heal.

Your Contributions Help Make a Difference

Many of the program enhancements and community services we offer are supported in part by generous contributions from our community. We invite you to consider making a donation to the Sentara Health Foundation for Sentara Hospice Services, Camp Lighthouse, a program for children who lose a parent or sibling, or Sentara Hospice House , a new home-like hospice facility in Virginia Beach. Thank you for your support!