Erin Gafner

Erin Gafner

Written by Erin Gafner, Experiential Marketing Specialist, System Development, Sentara Healthcare.

Recently I read a note from a reader who commented on a Sentara Today post about hospice services. She wanted to express thoughts on her family’s experience with hospice services. Her story touched me deeply and with her permission, I’d like to pass along what Catherine Jordan, administrative assistant, Medicaid Outreach and Education, Optima Health, shared with me.

Our journey 

Losing a loved one is unfortunately a part of life – so many of us have watched someone we love, lose the battle to a fatal illness. When Catherine Jordan’s brother Pete, chose to spend his last days at home in North Carolina with hospice services, she didn’t know what to expect. It can be very scary for families but Catherine and her family will be forever grateful to hospice services for their intervention.

Benjamin Lewis Cherry

Benjamin Lewis Cherry

Benjamin Lewis Cherry, also known as “Pete,” by his close friends and family, was a Vietnam Veteran in the U.S. Army. He followed that service by another 30 years of service in the National Guard. Needless to say, Pete loved his country. After a long-time battle with leukemia, which led to two stem-cell transplants from his sister Catherine, Pete developed lung cancer. Once doctors determined that chemotherapy would ultimately not be successful, he opted for hospice through home care. “We were all scared in the beginning,” said Catherine.

“Hospice helped our family become more open with our emotions. They encouraged us and Pete to discuss our fears, our sadness and even our anger.” With help from hospice, Catherine’s family was able to have the transition discussion in a safe and healthy environment. Not only did hospice provide objectivity to the situation, but they were able to see beyond the emotion at a time when her family could not.

The hospice team helped her family talk through their emotions and express them rationally. “They truly held our hands throughout the entire experience, and somehow transformed a dreary, scary and uncomfortable situation, and made it manageable,” said Catherine. Catherine’s family had the opportunity to celebrate Pete’s 61st birthday on June 27, 2011. “Towards the end, we were able to learn to laugh, and weren’t afraid to,” said Catherine. Shortly after his birthday celebration, Pete passed away on July 31, 2011. “Pete wanted his last days to be the very best they could possibly be, and with hospice, they were.”

While Pete opted for home care through hospice in his hometown of Aulander, North Carolina, Catherine is a major advocate for the new Sentara Hospice House here in Virginia Beach. “Having this option for people here in Hampton Roads is so important. If anyone has to make this tough decision for themselves or someone they love, I would tell them not to be afraid and that they will find comfort in knowing that they do not have to go through this experience alone.”

Contributions to the Sentara Health Foundation provide enhancements to the hospice program such as volunteer education and supplies, Camp Lighthouse for children losing a parent or sibling and the new Sentara Hospice House in Virginia Beach, a home away from home. Thank you for your generous support!