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A hospice story
November is national Hospice month, and we on Martha's Vineyard are celebrating our joy that Ann Ledden RN has joined our staff. A graduate of Newport Hospital School of Nursing, Ann has been a nurse for more than 30 years; she worked for VNA during the summers of 1992 and 1993, and most recently worked at an oncology clinic off-Island. She is an oncology certified nurse and recently became a certified hospice and palliative care nurse.
The family of Mildred Rocker Gonsalves.
Back row: John Gonsalves, Anthony Gonsalves, Joe Gonsalves. Front row: Evette Turner, Margaret Oliveira, Mildred Rocker Gonsalves, and Evelyn Larkin.
Margaret, one of Mildred's six children, added: "I met Ann on the beach years ago. When she came as our Hospice nurse, I felt comfortable. It's nice to know her personally - to have someone familiar. It's challenging to have someone come into our home and talk about personal things, but Ann is easy."
Mildred added: "I just light up when I know Ann's coming."
Ann's sense of humor and genuine warmth make her welcome. "She has a comfortable, warm way about her. We can talk about everything - recipes, not just my disease, but other things, too. The whole family thinks the world of her. We're very lucky to have her," says Millie.." Ann has been invaluable, assisting the family to understand the medical bills - what's covered, what's been paid by insurance and what's due. And, on the rare occasions when Ann is not available, Cynthia Barletta, another Hospice nurse, comes to call.
"She's a hot ticket," they say.
Now that Mildred has recovered from surgery, Ann visits and calls frequently and is available to go to doctor's appointments with Mildred. "She's an extra pair of ears and a brain to translate the medical terms and explain the medicine." She also introduced Mildred to Trudy Carter, a Hospice social worker who helped her when she was having bad dreams. "Mildred is an extremely independent, smart woman, and very spiritual," says Trudy. "She has faced her illness valiantly, undergoing chemo and then surgery, and then deciding to live the rest of her life with her children, using our support to come to terms with a terminal illness." And, on the rare occasions when Ann is not available, Cynthia Barletta, another Hospice nurse, comes to call.
The team of doctors, visiting nurses, counselors and Hospice nurses has enabled Mildred to outlive her early prognosis by over a year. And she's still going strong, taking daily walks with friends. "I'm taking one day at a time, and I'm enjoying it," she exclaimed. But, when Mildred asked Ann what will happen when "the time comes," Ann assured her that she would be there for Mildred and her children, to coach them through the transition and to relieve any suffering. That, too, is comforting to Mildred.
Mildred and her family have also introduced Ann to what hospice work is. Having well over a year together has given Ann a beautiful opportunity to establish a deep relationship with the family as they walk together towards the eventual end of Mildred's life.
National Hospice month is now over, but Mildred's is one of the stories of how celebrating the care continues.
Polly Brown is a member of the board of Hospice and a Hospice volunteer.