Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From the Road - New York

As summer sets in, we find ourselves in my home town of New York City. As I stroll familiar streets,  I am reminded of old and new friends, old and new memories, and filled with promise for the future of our industry and those who we care for. I am also filled with emotion.

Last night we strolled by the September 11th memorial, and I was reminded of the time that I spent at the old World Trade Center, of the friends that I lost that day, and of the majestic view of those Twin Towers from the Brooklyn Bridge.  As Manhattan rises up and recreates itself (as it always has) I am also reminded that change is constant, and evolution—sometimes forced, sometimes innate—is a part of life.  I no longer recognize some blocks in New York, but I always recognize its spirit of reinvention. From Alexander Hamilton (who is buried at Trinity Church, near Ground Zero) to yours truly, New Yorkers have often come from elsewhere and have evolved to meet the needs of their City, state and nation.  Changing, but not forgetting our roots


 I am so grateful for the opportunity to lead NHPCO at this important time.  Despite the challenges of our time, I am hopeful that we will continue to make progress toward creating a better and kinder health care system.  As much as hospice needs to evolve, the rest of the health care system needs to evolve in a way that is more person-centered, interdisciplinary, compassionate, and non-acute.  Like Hamilton, we must evolve but must not forget our roots—it is what has gotten us this far.  Onward!

Edo Banach and Don Pendley of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Have a wonderful rest-of-summer with your friends and family.  I will see you on the road.   


Monday, July 17, 2017

Honoring Those Who Fought for Our Freedom

My first honor flight experience was one I will never forget. One hundred and ten Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars arrived in Washington, D.C. on a gloomy, overcast morning. However, the weather could not dampen their spirits as they proudly exited the plane to a mass of cheers and welcome. As I stood there clapping, smiling, and welcoming the Veterans off the flight, I took a moment to consider how things had changed since the last time they were welcomed off a plane in such a manner. I wondered if all of them had been so deservingly honored with a welcoming home from their service. The smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes – most of them would only admit to allergies or “sweaty eyes” – told me that this moment was unlike any other for the honored guests of the capital.

For most of the Veterans, it was their first time in Washington, D.C. and the guided bus tour provided their first glimpse at the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and more. Having lived in D.C. for only a month, the monuments became just objects disrupting the D.C. horizon to me instead of the wonderful testaments to American freedom. The Veterans’ marveling and appreciation for the monuments and memorials provided me a renewed significance of the grounds. 

The honor flight experience added context to the importance of my work with the We Honor Veterans program this summer. After learning of the many challenges that Veterans face in terms of health and mobility, the opportunity for the Veterans to visit the nation’s Capitol that they sacrificed and fought so valiantly for became much more significant. In fact, many of the Veterans that required wheelchairs to get off the plane chose to stand and walk through the memorials instead of being assisted. Their perseverance and respect for their fallen brothers in arms was admirable and inspiring.

 It was an honor to help the Veterans locate a friend’s name on the Vietnam Memorial wall or even just listen to their stories. I had the fortune of being present for the reunion of two Veterans who had not fought in the war together, but worked at the same gas station in the years after the war. The two talked about the feeling of significance that they felt in their work during the war and the lost sense of purpose upon returning. Hearing the conversation reaffirmed the need to honor and respect Veterans regardless of one’s position on war. 
Welcoming and walking alongside the Veterans from the honor flight renewed my respect for Washington, D.C. and its symbol of freedom. Additionally, the experience helped me understand the need to continue to show respect to our Veterans of all wars for their service and dedication to protecting the independence of our country that we just celebrated on the Fourth of July. I cannot express my sincere gratitude enough for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Honor Flight Network for the amazing opportunity.

By Kevin Curwick
Kevin is an intern working with NHPCO’s Access Team and We Honor Veterans program. He recently graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Health Science.  Kevin has done a lot of work at the Mayo Clinic, both as an undergraduate research assistant in their Pain Rehabilitation Center and as an undergraduate research fellow in their Department of Critical Care.

Every summer, NHPCO welcomes student interns who are involved in a wide range of projects for the organization and its affiliates. This summer, our three interns participated in an Honor Flight event in DC and we asked them to share their experience. This is the third in the series of three blogs from our interns.  See blog the previous blogs: "Some Wounds Never Heal"  and "Honoring American's Heroes."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Honoring America’s Heroes

Smiling faces, heavy hearts, and American patriotism was what I saw and felt as the honor flight Veterans emerged from the gate at the Ronald Reagan National Airport. I clapped, said “welcome to DC,” and waved my flag as I greeted the men who fought tirelessly for my freedom, and for the freedom of those around me. Watching them walk in, some more solemn then others, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was going through their mind as they stepped off that plane. How were they feeling about their time serving our country? Did they lose friends in the war? How did it cause them to suffer?  Some of their smiles, their waves, and their pride that radiated from their faces made my eyes fill with tears. I was filled with thankfulness as I honored their lives and their time spent serving our country. 

My favorite part of the day was spent at the Vietnam veteran’s memorial wall.  As I walked with the Veterans, I continued to think and wonder what was going on in their minds as they viewed the names of those who died, and the names of those who were not found. I couldn’t imagine the memories that the memorials were provoking and I thought about the bravery that it took for the Veterans to be there. Looking at their memorial was like looking their past, their service, and their dedication to our country in the face. Some may have thought of fond memories, while some could have thought of the worst memories of their life. I honored them as they faced whatever memories the war brought them as they walked beside the memorial wall. 

My heart was full as we continued the walk when one of the Veterans asked me to help him find the names of two of his friends who died in the war.  I pulled out my smart phone and found the location of his friends’ names on the wall and we found both of them. He shared with me the few memories he had with them, where they died, and why he wanted to see their names. I took a picture of him beside his friends’ names and I continued to be in awe of the bravery that it took to look the war that you served in, in the face.  I couldn’t fathom having to find my friends’ names on a wall that represented their death, and my survival. 

The honor flight experience placed me at a very reflective spirit. I left feeling grateful, inspired, and proud of those who served our country so well, and those who sacrificed so much so that the rest of us could live in freedom and in peace.

By Hannah Winters
Hannah is an intern working with NHPCO’s communications team this summer. She is a junior at Ball State University in Indiana working toward her Bachelor of Science in English Studies, with minors in Political Science in Professional Writing.  

Every summer, NHPCO welcomes student interns who are involved in a wide range of projects for the organization and its affiliates. This summer, our three interns participated in an Honor Flight event in DC and we asked them to share their experience. This is the second of three blogs that will run this week.  See blog #1, "Some Wounds Never Heal."

Monday, July 10, 2017

Some Wounds Never Heal

Every summer, NHPCO welcomes student interns who are involved in a wide range of projects for the organization and its affiliates. This summer, our three interns participated in an Honor Flight event in DC and we asked them to share their experience. This is the first of three blogs that will run this week.

 Thomas Brown was his name. The Marine Corpsman who gave his life in 1967 during the Vietnam War. I had the honor of accompanying one of his friends, David Sparks, around Washington, D.C. the day after July 4th as he was honored on the Central Missouri Honor Flight. David remembers “Tom” as a fun-loving guy who helped him get through the harrowing experiences of war. Together, David and I searched for Tom’s name on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial. It took some time but once we did a moment of hushed, somber remembrance covered the both of us. After a moment of silence, David turned to me and said, “The first war we ever fought as a free nation was amongst ourselves.” He paused as he let the gravity of that glimmer of truth sink in.

David’s perspective and reverent demeanor was mirrored among the 110 other veterans who traveled with him to Washington D.C. The day was filled with small talk about family and work as well as periods of laughter, tears and healing. Every man present carried on their minds the true magnitude and cost of war. It was truly an honor to be a part of this moving experience for so many Veterans from Central Missouri. As the grand-niece of a Vietnam War veteran myself, this visit had a deeper meaning for me. My uncle came home physically and mentally injured from the war. It was through the support of fellow servicemen that really helped him to heal and carry on in his civilian life.

However, some wounds are slower to heal than others while some may never heal. To this day, my uncle is still unable to see or hear the names of the friends he lost in battle. Respecting the space he needs to continue to heal, even all these years later, I decided that I would accompany some of his fellow servicemen on this spiritual, healing journey. Standing there, at the Vietnam memorial with David as we looked upon Tommy Brown’s name, I couldn’t help tears from springing into my eyes. This man was just one of the thousands who died to honor the spirit of America. The gravity of what these men and women endured in battle and sacrificed on our behalf really hit me at that moment.

This is why I am so proud to be able to assist an organization who seeks to directly honor Veterans while ensuring that they have the best possible end of life care one could hope for. Veterans and service members should not be forgotten due to the sacrifices they have made. To the Veterans reading this: thank you, as to the NHPCO: thank you for making a Veteran’s care at the end of life one of your priorities. 

By Libby Cronican
Libby is an intern working with NHPCO’s affiliate Hospice ActionNetwork. She is a Philosophy major who just graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota with her Bachelor of Arts degree.  Her senior thesis involved investigating how to preserve the dignity of individuals as they approach the end of life and formulating ethical responses to the loss of dignity in end of life care. 

See blog #2, "Honoring America's Heroes."