Joann Ewing honored by VNA
The Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) marked National Health Care Month and National Health Care Aide Week by honoring Joann Ewing who retired in August after 17 years as a Home Health Care Aide.
The tribute coincided with Ms. Ewing's 81st birthday on Thursday, Nov. 5. A special breakfast for her was held at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, catered by the high school's culinary arts students. More than 60 people came to celebrate Ms. Ewing, including family, friends, and VNA board members and staff.
Ms. Ewing, who worked closely with Dr. Milton Mazer as an administrator at Community Services Mental Health Center for 20 years, joined VNA in 1992. It was shortly after the death of her 71-year-old husband, Harvey, and, six weeks later, the death of their son, Doug, who died of cancer.
With her life in turmoil, Ms. Ewing turned toward the needs of others, she wrote in a VNA publication. "The reaction of the community to my loss was so thoughtful and caring that it moved me to return the kindness. It was easy to identify with my patients. We had endured many of the same losses. For them, it was not just the losses of spouses and loved ones, but of their independence and skills. Their appreciation for the simple things I did for them, and their uncomplaining nature, lifted my morale."
As an example of Home Health Aide care in the extreme, Ms. Ewing recalls, "I have done everything from raking leaves off a client's front walkway to picking blueberries, transplanting geraniums in their garden, and gathering up firewood."
In his opening remarks at the tribute, Bob Tonti, VNA's chief executive officer, referred to the organization's 32 certified Home Health Care Aides as, "the backbone and core of the organization."
Sandie Corr-Dolby, Clinical Director of Nursing for VNA, then spoke, describing her recollection of an early experience working with Ms. Ewing. "I had started at VNA about one year after Joann, and went on a call with her to see a woman who was in a coma and near death," she said. "To my surprise, Joann lay down on the bed next to the ailing woman, and began to speak softly and slowly into her ear, describing the scene outside - the garden, the birds and butterflies - in such a peaceful way. Suddenly, the woman's hand moved and her eyes opened. Joann asked her what she was thinking about, and the woman actually answered, 'I am looking for my angel wings.'"
Ms. Corr-Dolby continued, "I will never forget the tenderness and caring that Joann showed to our patient that day. She has been an inspiration for all of us throughout these years."
VNA, an independent nonprofit agency located on State Road in Vineyard Haven, is celebrating 25 years of service to the Martha's Vineyard community. The certified Home Health Aides, who comprise almost half of VNA's 80-member staff, provide a wide variety of assistance to at-home patients, including such basic needs as bathing, feeding, dressing, shopping for groceries, meal preparation, and generally helping disabled and recuperating Islanders with those things that they cannot do for themselves while enabling them to live in their own homes. Qualifying for a Massachusetts license as a certified Home Health Aide requires 125 hours of training, a state test, and continuous training to become a Certified Home Health Care Aide.
The VNA provides about 30,000 care visits each year to Island homes.
As for Joann Ewing, she will hardly be idle. A long-term violinist with the Vineyard Sinfonietta, she will continue bringing pleasure to many, performing with the group when it gives its annual December and spring concerts.
Nils A. Shapiro is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.