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Palliative Care: Beyond Traditional Medicine

DavidDriscollPhoto_PalliativeCare-jpg.jpegIt’s been more than two years since David Driscoll has been down to the shorefront behind his Sebago Lake home, but he still loves to look out the windows at the waters that he spent years enjoying. “I was quite the outdoor person. I loved to go boating and fishing in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter,” David recalled.

David, 64, is homebound these days. Fifteen years ago, he was diagnosed with Arachnoiditis, a disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surround and protects the nerves of the spinal cord. It’s a chronic, painful condition, and one of several serious chronic conditions including diabetes and recurring infections that David says sent him to the hospital more than twenty times last year. “The doctors would treat me when I showed up, but once I left the hospital or the doctor’s office, I felt like I was on my own. I didn’t really have the help that I needed to live with this condition,” he said. He decided to consider palliative care.

David doesn’t remember how he first met Robin Hirsh-Wright, LCSW, director of Palliative Care Services for VNA Home Health Hospice, but he said she was a saving grace when she connected David with palliative care services at his home. “Robin and the palliative care team have been outstanding. They have taken care of my healthcare needs, and my emotional needs.”

Recognizing that there was a growing need for this service, EMHS launched its new community-based palliative care service line systemwide last year. “Good palliative care is about finding a way to walk beside someone living with serious illness,” Robin Hirsh-Wright explained. “Our culture struggles to even talk about the concept that life doesn’t go on forever.” Robin also added that the conversation eventually becomes about what makes life worth living rather than about dying. A patient recently told her, “It is not that my illness went away, but my doctors started listening differently, and my pain is much better managed.”

David Driscoll never thought he would need this type of care, at least not at this point in his life, but he’s certainly glad that he has it. He may not be able to physically walk down to the shorefront of Sebago Lake, but said that he gets a peaceful and calming feeling when he looks out across the waters of Sebago Lake towards Mount Washington. He feels truly blessed to live in such a beautiful state and to have the support he needs to live his life and manage his chronic illness. “I don’t think I’d be here today if it weren’t for this program, and you can quote me on that.”

If you would like more information on EMHS Palliative Care, call VNA Home Health Hospice at 800-757-3326 or visit