When you first meet Rick, right away you notice both his uplifting and commanding nature. Born in Mount Vernon, Rick is an alumni of Lincoln Elementary and the University of Washington. The life he has led with his wife Sheila has been worldly and exciting. Rick served in the Army from 1958-1988, retiring as a colonel. After his military career, he and his wife lived on a sailboat all over the Mediterranean Sea for nearly 10 years before returning home to Burlington.
The lung cancer Rick has been diagnosed with is a result for Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. During his 2 ½ years of combat as an airborne ranger, Rick’s plane was shot down. While he was lucky to survive, he required extensive hospitalization but made a near-full recovery. The cancer caused by Agent Orange is particularly troublesome for Rick because it is not responsive to many of the treatments and medications currently available. After his first round of chemotherapy and a week spent sick in the hospital, Rick and his wife made the decision to stop curative treatment and come home.
“I didn’t want to spend half of the time for the rest of my life sick from treatment that might only extend my life by three months or so,” explains Rick. “I choose to savor time with my family and live with a better quality of life at home.”
In his home, alongside art and photos of his family, friends, and travels, he has a wheelchair, an oxygen tank along with a portable one for when he leaves the house, a special bed to help prop him up while sleeping, and more. But it’s not the special equipment that has made the biggest impact on Rick.
“Hospice has brought sleep back into my home. I can breathe well again, and they have brought me comfort. Hospice brought the right people here to help.”
One of Rick’s favorite times is when his Hospice of the Northwest massage therapist, Tiana, comes to visit. During their appointments, he is able to find relaxation and relief with his muscles and previous injuries. They talk about life and have developed a strong bond. “I always look forward to our visits. I sleep so well for the next couple nights after she comes.” Rick is grateful to the donors, whose generosity enables complementary therapists to visit hospice patients. Complementary therapies reduce anxiety as well as bring comfort and relief to patients without using any medication.
Rick was previously a volunteer with Hospice of the Northwest for 6 years, so he was familiar with the patient and family-centered approach of the hospice care team. “I wanted to give back and be there for those in need. It was truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.” For years, Rick provided help and companionship to hospice patients. Now, he is receiving that same level of expert care and compassion. When asked about his own care team, he responds, “I haven’t needed a volunteer, yet. But I know that when I do, we will be supported by someone special.” Hospice of the Northwest volunteers are extensively trained and well-supported, thanks to the generosity of donors.
When thinking ahead for yourself and your loved ones, consider quality of life at the end of life. Hospice provides a full network of support by the care team that includes a doctor, nurse, social worker, spiritual counselor, care aide, complementary therapists, and volunteers who are there to help.
Donors are also an essential part of providing hospice care. Donors help patients to meet their goals by provide for special needs, equipment, and atypical treatments. Donors support continuing education for staff and free grief counseling, available to anyone in the community. Donors improve the lives of hospice patients and their loved ones.
To choose quality of life at the end of life, talk to you doctor about hospice care and discuss your advance care plans early.