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Aroostook House of Comfort

It took 28 days for Rick Duncan’s mother to die after she was admitted to the hospital. Rick says she was in tremendous pain from breast cancer and even morphine wouldn’t ease her suffering. “As a family, it was hard. She was mostly unconscious, but it was apparent she was in pain. You don’t want to see your loved one suffering,” Rick recalled.

That was nearly nine years ago. Rick realized, after witnessing his mother go through her end of life in a hospital, that there must be a better way. He started to visit hospice homes in other parts of the state.  Eventually, he would find other like-minded people who shared his vision that Aroostook County needed a hospice home where people could spend their end of life in comfort, surrounded by family; where they could receive physical, emotional, and spiritual support. “Most of the people who came together with us were people that had some experience with a family member. We found out there were a lot of those experiences and the need was growing and growing.”

They formed the Aroostook Hospice Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit. Rick then visited all the hospitals in Aroostook County to get their support. He and the other members of the board began fundraising. The first big lump sum was the $40,000 they raised at the Logan Graves Golf Tournament in Presque Isle.  Logan was six years old when he died of brain cancer. His parents were supporters of this project.  The Presque Isle Rotary’s annual auction on Time Warner Cable raised $450,000. “Everyone has given of their gifts and talents,” Rick said.

Those gifts included donations of handmade quilts from a quilting club in Washburn to supplies of building materials. Huber Engineered Woods of Easton donated all the oriented strand board used for wall and roof sheathing. “There was such a need in Aroostook County for that type of service. Huber felt very strongly about that project so that folks could have their loved ones nearby,” explained Tammie Fletcher, office manager for Huber Engineered Woods. “Being from a small county my whole life, I’ve lived here and worked here. There has always been someone willing to help out in some shape or form,” she said.

Aroostook Hospice Foundation raised $1.5 million to fund the construction and create an endowment—low-interest financing from the USDA funded the remaining $2.8 million. They broke ground last May and one year later, plan to open in next month. Guests recently gathered for their open house on April 7 and received tours of the new facility. The 18,000 square foot facility sits on 15 acres of land in Presque Isle and can accommodate up to six families. Some of its amenities include six bedroom suites with bathrooms, a great room with a stone fireplace, a family meeting area, a conference room, chapel, office space for physicians and nurses, and a kids’ playroom named after Logan Graves. VNA Home Health Hospice will staff and operate the facility. There will be one full-time nurse and two CNAs staffing the facility 24/7. 

When asked what his mother might think of this new facility, Rick replied, “I think she’s smiling. My mother was the type of person who ignored herself taking care of other people. It’s a continuation of the legacy she left us.”

The Aroostook Hospice Foundation will continue fundraising to help with operating costs. If you're interested in learning more or donating, visit http://aroostookhouseofcomfort.com or call 207-769-2402.

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Helping with humor

file.jpegThey call her Shirley Valentine down at the Waterville Opera House and in performance venues across the state. Most recently, she was Hope in Aqua City Actors Theatre’s production of Almost, Maine, one of the most popular plays in the nation. Wherever you may find her, in places real or imagined, you’ll discover what those who attend the annual Lakewood May Day Auction already know: local actress and event auctioneer Marie Cormier can really bust a gut.

For two years, Marie has brought her energetic brand of humor to the May Day Auction, which is the largest annual fundraiser for Lakewood, a continuing care center on the Inland Hospital campus. At the auction, Marie and her daughter Karen take turns razzing Inland Hospital president John Dalton, singing off- kilter songs from their New Brunswick homeland, and motivating those in attendance to open their wallets and pocketbooks for a good cause.

Humor comes naturally to Marie, who transforms into Shirley Valentine for her popular one-woman shows in theaters, churches, and event centers. She eagerly lends her talent to the May Day Auction because she is passionate about Lakewood and inspired by the care provided by the staff.

“I am so impressed with the way they run Lakewood,” she says. “It’s the caring, and the subtle, gentle way they treat people.”

Proceeds from the auction fund Lakewood residents’ overnight summer trips to Belfast, where they can smell the fresh breezes and see beautiful views of the Maine coast. A portion of the money raised supports the newly-established Residents Activity Endowment Fund and other needs at Lakewood.

This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, May 10 from 6-8 pm at Lakewood, 220 Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville—EMHS employees are encouraged to attend. Call Inland Hospital Foundation at 861-3377 to learn more.

Did you know? EMHS Foundation holds fundraising events across Maine, from Kennebunkport to Presque Isle, and EMHS employees are welcome to attend. Many of the events are family-friendly. To find an event near you, visit www.emhsfoundation.org and click on “events and programs.”

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Ticket to Travel

Veenie-3.jpgAs caregivers, we want to do everything we can to ensure our patients receive the care that best meets their needs. Sometimes the ability to receive this care can mean unplanned travel, additional appointments, and visits to see a specialist—difficult barriers for patients who may have physical limitations, are without transportation, or the financial resources to afford travel. This was the case for one TAMC patient who needed to go to Bangor to receive an evaluation before she could proceed forward with weight loss surgery.

Lavenia “Veenie” Bouchard, receptionist for the TAMC Physical Rehabilitation department, recalls, “This patient had spoken to us several times about the surgery and we knew it would undoubtedly be life-changing for her, but we also knew she was not able to drive far distances nor could afford a bus ticket. It didn’t seem right that a bus ticket was the one thing in the way of potentially changing this patient’s life for the better.”

Veenie talked with her co-workers and together they decided to chip in to purchase the bus ticket as well as arrange for transportation from the bus station to the location of the evaluation. Veenie says this patient was very thankful when she found out, and although she is typically very reserved, she made sure the rehabilitation staff remained updated regarding her progress along the way. “This patient is quiet by nature, but she expressed that she would have never been able to make it down to Bangor without the help. She shared that this kind gesture allowed her to get one step closer to leading a healthy lifestyle—for us, this made it all well worth it.”

When reflecting on this experience, Veenie says “When it comes right down to it, it is about compassion—making the world better for another individual. This is how I live my life, and when we show compassion for our patients, this not only helps them physically but nurtures their soul as well. Sometimes in healthcare, it’s not just about feeding the body, but the mind and spirit as well.”

Do you have a story about a team or staff member who provided an exceptional patient experience? Share it by emailing yourstory@emhs.org.