Imagine if you can… Your husband of over 40 years, your 49-year-old son, and you yourself are all on hospice at the same time. Can you even imagine it?

To say that meeting Kathy Susan changed my life would be an understatement. When I first heard her story, I thought, “How can this be true? How can anyone endure such loss?” But, that was before I met Kathy Susan.

Having Kathy in our care has been truly amazing. It is extremely rare to have multiple members of the same family as patients at the same time—as was the case with the Susan family.

“When my husband became so ill and the final diagnosis came, his doctor said, ‘I think it’s time for Hospice’.” That is when Kathy Susan’s journey with Collabria Hospice began. She recalls, “His health declined rapidly. We had a team that worked really well together. They were willing to do anything it took, even put up with my very snarly attitude. No one ever got rankled. They were kind and tender and did everything with such grace.”

In September 2015—just five months after her husband Ted had come onto Hospice—Kathy was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive and eventually fatal neurological disease. Suddenly, Kathy was no longer the caregiver of a hospice patient, but now a hospice patient herself.

Two months later, Kathy and Ted received an unexpected call from their 49-year-old son Scott, who lived in Texas. He’d been taken to the emergency room and told he had an incurable form of cancer. Kathy and Ted decided to bring Scott home to northern California where they knew our experienced Hospice team would provide the care and support he needed.

“We had no idea Scott would only be with us for three days,” says Kathy. “The Hospice team came to care for him and bathe him. Our other children came home too, and we surrounded Scott with love. On Thanksgiving morning, Collabria Hospice’s Chaplain, Eric Vaughn, dressed in his vestments, lit candles and played the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. He let each of us anoint Scott’s head with oil and say whatever we wanted to say. He passed at 10:21am Thanksgiving morning. The social workers were here, but they weren’t here. I didn’t know they were here and it was so respectful. It was such a sacred, private time.”

People often say to me, “Being a hospice nurse must be so depressing,” but it’s not depressing at all. It’s a profession that brings me great joy. Having the ability to impact people at such a profound time is really amazing.

You’re stepping into a journey with each patient and their family. You care for them and do the best for them until your time together comes to an end—and that’s really what hospice is all about. And, we are changed by every patient we serve. We are changed.

Many in our field would describe hospice care as a calling. And, I believe that’s what makes Collabria Hospice so special. Our entire staff is made up of experienced professionals who possess an incredible amount of dedication, respect, and compassion for our patients and their loved ones.

With every visit, we aim to provide comfort and relief for patients and caregivers alike; to let them know they are not alone.

We are able to do this because of you—people who are equally as caring and dedicated to our mission to provide physical, emotional and spiritual comfort in the final stage of life to all who need it—like the Susan family.

As a nonprofit organization, every charitable dollar means so much. Collabria Hospice relies on your support to continue to provide our services to those in our community.

Please make your heartfelt end-of-year gift to support Collabria Hospice today.

My colleagues and I are truly grateful for your wonderful generosity and kind heart for those in need.

Drew Culwell, RN, CHPN, OCN
Clinical Services Manager
Collabria Hospice

Update: It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of Kathy Susan on December 23. Our gratitude and deepest sympathies to her family.