And then it came back.
Shelley was working in Admissions then and took a leave of absence to be with her mother, who lived two hours away.
“It was such an overwhelming time,” she says.
But she didn’t face it alone. Hospice provided a support system for both her and her mother.
“To have the assistance of doctors, nurses, social workers is so what I needed,” she says. “It’s amazing what hospice does for families.”
When she returned to UNCG, her experience with hospice stayed with her. Shelley sought out Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro for free grief counseling.
At about that time, she got the annual SECC letter. As she scanned the list of organizations, she ran across hospice. She knew she didn’t have to look any more.
She’s been giving faithfully to the organization through the SECC since 2009.
“I love that it comes out of our check, that we can automatically support it,” she says.
But that wasn’t the end of her giving back.
Shelley, who is now an academic advisor for the Lloyd International Honors College, decided to volunteer. Since she began four years ago, she’s done about every kind of volunteer position available.
She started slowly, working the front desk of Beacon House, a facility for those with a prognosis of six to eight weeks. She answered the phone and directed people to rooms. It was a good start.
She became comfortable with the atmosphere and appreciated once again all the support everyone gave family members.
“It made me want to be a part of it,” she says. “The focus is not so much on death – as contradictory as that seems – as it is on hope.”
Shelley then then moved into direct patient care training, which allowed her to visit patients in their own homes. She would go to provide a two-hour respite for the caretakers. It allowed them to run errands, take a nap, take a shower – whatever they needed for that space of time.
She learned valuable lessons at that time. “I became more comfortable talking with patients. Oftentimes it’s just a matter of being there.”
Then she made what she thought would be the toughest leap for her. She transitioned to Kids Path, a hospice program for children dealing with illness and loss.
Shelley started by doing workshops for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one. In one workshop, Make a Memory Bear, children bring in an article of clothing that belonged to their loved one and make a teddy bear from it.
When they first cut out the bears, many kids would hold the fabric up and sniff it, trying to catch the scent.
“It reinforced how important that type of support is for kids,” Shelley says. “I decided I could handle a patient through Kids Path.”
She spent one year with a patient who was eventually released from hospice care. It was a wonderful outcome, and she was thrilled to spend time with him and his family.
While the volunteering is an hour here and an hour there, it all adds up.
“Through all those little moments, I realize this really matters,” she says. “I am truly making a difference.”
Visit the SECC site at http://secc.wp.uncg.edu.
By Beth English