The Hospice Connection
When Duane “Mike” Stoner, Stanly, was discharged from Palmer Hospice in 2012, he thought he was on the mend.
His wife Danita remembers, “With COPD, diabetes, congestive heart failure and cancer, who would have thought Mike would have been discharged in the first place? But, that was always Mike…he was constantly surprising us.”
Upon discharge, Mike planned on being around for a while with his 3 children, 3 step-children, 18 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. An owner and operator of his own over-the-road trucking business with his wife, the couple planned on enjoying the fact that Mike had “gotten kicked out of Hospice.” However, in early 2013, the couple’s plan veered off track.
“That was our Mike! It didn’t quite happen as we had planned,” Danita laughs. “He was always good at throwing a wrench in MY plans!”
After being discharged from Palmer Hospice, Mike continued to be seen by Palmer Home Health for his illnesses with a goal of being discharged. However, his Home Health nurses began to notice a decline in Mike’s breathing warranting him to return to hospice care.
“Palmer was excellent during that time. They knew what was best for Mike but left the decision up to him. Mike was fine with going back on hospice. He had proved the doctors wrong before and intended on doing it again,” Danita says.
Palmer Hospice RN Martha Fulton continues, “Well, Danita has to take most of the credit. She was his primary caregiver. She handled all his medication administration, bathing, cooking, and personal cares. She hung right in there with him!”
Even though Danita was Mike’s primary caregiver, she commends Palmer for all her strength and knowledge.
“They would come in and teach me what to do. I could call anytime with any questions. They always were supportive and helped me get the answers I needed no matter when I called. They never made me feel like I was bothering them.”
According to Fulton, Mike relied on his wife of 21 years for support knowing she could handle anything…including him.
“Let’s just say that Mike is a pistol,” Danita laughs. “He always enjoyed giving everyone around him a hard time and that really included me!”
In addition to taking care of Mike’s personal cares at home, Danita was also his medical advocate. Her care of her husband led Danita to earn “Palmer Hospice Excellence in Caregiving” Award. An award that Fulton and the entire team felt was justified and earned.
“If Danita and Mike felt he needed something medically, she was always right there in his corner fighting for him,” Fulton expresses. “There was a time when there was nothing we could do at home to get his pain under control so we sent him to the Emergency Room. That is when they found pancreatic cancer. She always had his best interest in mind and knew when she was in over her head. She was very in tune with his needs.”
Palmer Hospice could be seen at the Stoner home up to three times a week checking on Mike’s vitals, health, well-being and answering any questions the couple may have. According to Danita, many times they were there to simply be there for the family. Danita explains allowing someone in your home that often changes your relationship with the person. While Fulton was Mike’s main hospice nurse, she soon became part of the family.
“Mike loved seeing Palmer Hospice come in. We were lucky and got hospice early in the process so Mike had time to become comfortable with Martha and Melodee, another nurse that came regularly. It takes a special person to do this job, and Palmer Hospice has found the right people. To develop that connection early on is so important…I don’t know how to say enough good things about Palmer Hospice. We had other hospice options, but not for one second do I regret our decision.”
Danita has dealt with hospice in the past with other family members and mentioned how the concept of hospice has grown in 20 years. “At first, Mike thought that by letting Palmer Hospice into his life, he was going to die immediately. That is NOT the case. The earlier you have hospice into your home, the better the relationship. Once Mike realized hospice was there to help and he wasn’t going to die the next day, it made his acceptance, his life and, in turn, my life so much easier.”
Danita will never forget Palmer Hospice for providing her and Mike more time together. Having his medical attention available at home, they were able to visit with family and friends in their own home as opposed to running to the doctor’s office or hospital. More importantly, Palmer Hospice allowed Mike to die peacefully in his home surrounded by loved ones almost two years after they first came into his life.
Smiling, Fulton says, “Mike had such a spirit and conviction about him. He almost had me convinced he was going to pull through again…even towards the end when all my medical knowledge told me differently. He never complained and if he did, something was wrong. He never wanted people to feel sorry for him. He truly believed what would happen…would. When he saw us there trying to help his quality of life, he allowed us to do our job and did what was asked of him. I firmly believe our relationship was built from having hospice in early. When Mike passed away, even though I was expecting it, I was very sad…as if I was part of his family. I grieve for him and his family along with them.”
Danita finishes, “The connection built between a hospice patient and family and the team at Palmer Hospice is what makes this experience worth it. To have someone there helping you along the way and to embrace the time left with a person is what makes life worth living without that person…and Palmer Hospice was able to teach us that.”