Ryan McCarthy MD, WVU Medicine
November is National Hospice Month. Let’s take a moment and reflect on how our very own Hospice of the Panhandle enriches our lives. I celebrate the gift of Hospice every month because, as a doctor with WVU Medicine, I am lucky to work alongside these amazing folks daily. These humble folks often don’t get the recognition they deserve.
As a primary care doctor, I talk with my patients frequently about “the end.” As in, the end of life. It’s natural to avoid these thoughts — mortality is a heavy, sad topic. None of us like to think about death and how our families will cope. The good news is Hospice is ready for you – no matter what your end-of-life situation requires. You may not think about Hospice until you need them, but they think about you and your family. In your hour of need, Hospice is here.
When we are grieving, sad, and confused, Hospice swoops in, and comes to our aid. They listen and care for us. They treat our loved one’s physical pain and, at the same time, minister to our own spiritual needs. It’s all in a day’s work for these incredible folks. It’s amazing how kind words, hugs and sympathetic ears make a terrible time better — it’s true.
Hospice workers take us through the grieving process. When we are overwhelmed, a smiling face at Hospice hands us a tissue and offers a chair to sit and talk. They know this journey well and are ready to walk with us. Honestly, what they do is treat us like family and love us. Thank God for the dedicated and caring folks who work for Hospice. They literally come to work so they can voluntarily shoulder some of our pain.
In more than 20 years as a doctor, I have witnessed many families gathered at the end of one’s life. This process does not always go well. In fact, it can go horribly wrong – with unnecessary pain, suffering, confusion. Maybe you’ve been in a situation like this. It hurts and, in all honesty, it leaves a scar, one where we are left to think about how it all could have been easier, been better — less pain, less suffering.
Hospice makes all of this better — with support and resources. Often they provide a physical space – an actual building in which to gather. To bring the family, friends, the grandkids together for one last time with grandma. The Hospice Inpatient Facility in Kearneysville is an invaluable resource for our community. Since It was built I’ve had a patient die in every single room of this facility. When I tell families I have faith in the care at Hospice, they know I speak from my heart.
When I walk into the building, it is hallowed ground to me — an amazing combination of being in a church and, at the same time, the comfort of someone’s living room. I mean, how is that actually possible? My only explanation: it’s the magic of Hospice.
Hospice of the Panhandle has Chef Jordon, whose sole mission is to cook your family delicious food – so you can spend more time together. He once told me he couldn’t compete with grandma’s cooking, but he will create meals from scratch, pouring love into the batter — all to keep families gathered. Chef told me about the pressure of making “the last supper” for families. He also said it is tremendously satisfying knowing his meals are the last thing a family eats together.
You probably won’t think about Hospice until you need them. But they’ve been thinking about you all along. And they are ready for whatever you need. Whether it’s tissues, prayers or chocolate chip cookies — they’ve got you covered. Actually they’ve got all of us covered. And that’s something to celebrate.
Happy National Hospice Month.
Ryan McCarthy is a physician with WVU Medicine. He practices at Martinsburg Internal Medicine.