Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2018 – A Different Kind of Job

Name: Emily Gavalier
From: Northville, Michigan
Grade: Junior in 2017-2018, Senior in 2018-2019
School: Northville High School
Votes: 0

one of the most taboo specialities in healthcare, the place you go to
die. While it may seem that way to an outsider, I would be the first
to tell you that it is so much more than that. I don’t expect you
to believe me from simply that. So come, take a step into my world,
and a step into the front doors of Angela Hospice. What I show you
just may change your mind.

my name is Emily Gavalier. I am 18 years old, a senior in high
school, and I help people die.

what? Yes, you heard me right. I am a hospice volunteer, and I help
people die a comfortable, dignified death. Furthermore, I actually
like my job. Every week, I go in Thursdays for my 4 hour shift with a
smile on my face and a happy heart. Am I depressed? After all, I am
about to go take care of a bunch of people that have 6 months or less
to live. To answer that common question, no, not an ounce of sadness
is ever in my heart or on my mind while I am working. Between helping
the CENA’s bathe patients, feeding dinner to those who can no
longer feed themselves, and tending to the families of the patients,
I am busy. But busyness aside, I do not think I could ever have ill
feelings towards my job. Why? Let me tell you about my most memorable
experience in patient care thus far.

typical shift entails me signing in at the volunteer office, grabbing
a pager (it’s our version of a call light system) and heading down
to A wing, where there are 10 patients that I will be responsible for
caring for. I greet the nurses as per usual, when a nurse by the name
of Sue pulls me aside and asks me for a favor. A newly admitted
patient, who was still verbal and alert wanted to sit in a chair.
While this may seem like a simple task, for those who are in pain it
can be very difficult. Sue wanted this patient (we’ll call her
Sarah) to be supervised so that she would not fall out of the chair.
However, she had other patients to care for and was relying on me to
watch over Sarah. Before entering Sarah’s room, I was warned that
she was not particularly fond of visitors, so only stay for as long
as I was welcome. I introduced myself to Sarah, and she surprisingly
offered me a seat. We began to converse when she told me how she
would love to soak her nails in some warm, soapy water. She missed
her weekly manicures at the spa, and that this was the closest she
would get. I happily volunteered to get her a basin with the water,
and once I did, we sat and talked for close to an hour while she
soaked her nails. The night wore on, and my shift ended. I left not
knowing if I would ever see her again, but I knew I was surely fond
of her. Sarah was such a sweet woman with a huge heart, and she loved
to talk just like I do. When I came back the next week, she was still
there, but she had declined in health. She could no longer feed
herself, so I was in charge of making sure she ate dinner. Days
turned to weeks, and I visited Sarah every time I was in the
building. I even got to know her family, who requested that I visit
more often. They knew I would take good care of Sarah, and that Sarah
grew quite fond of me too. I would hold her hand and talk with her,
even as her memory slowly began to wear. Over the next week, she
slipped into a comatose state, where she was no longer responsive. I
would still have quiet visits with Sarah, holding her hands (which
were now cold and waxy) and telling her I was there for her. Sarah
passed away in August with her family at her bedside. I just so
happened to be in the building that night, and I was so incredibly
blessed to have a few quiet moments with her after the Aides prepared
her body. I reminisced about the stories she shared, and how she told
me that she loved life, but was ready to go be with her late husband.
I smiled knowing that she was now happy and at peace. At the end of
the night, when she was just about to leave, her daughter, who I had
gotten to know quite well, hugged me and thanked me for caring for
her mom. We said our goodbyes, and I left that night knowing that I
made a difference in the life of Sarah when she was at the very end.
It was a challenge to let go, but I knew she was now in a better

was the first patient I was especially close with, and that
experience has stuck with me ever since. She is an example of one of
the miracles that come through the Hospice Center on a daily basis.
We gave her comfort, peace, and the dignified death everyone
deserves. Now how can anyone be depressed knowing that they, along
with an amazing team of nurses and aides, made the end of someone’s
life a little more meaningful, a little more comfortable, and a
little less scary? I always tell the story of Sarah when anyone asks
me how I could work with dying people all the time. Of course, I love
helping them, but they help me too. They are teaching me how to care
for people, and how to be the nurse that I always aspired to be. To
say the least, I am grateful. In 10, 20, or even 30 years, I will
still be able to say I made a difference, and that my volunteer hours
were well worth it. I can honestly see myself working with the
hospice population until I am a hospice patient myself. I hope that
my story can change people’s minds and show them that hospice is
more than a place where people die. It’s a place where friendships
are made, families are healed, and patients find peace and meaning in
their life. Hospice is a work of heart and an act of love. I am truly
blessed to be a Hospice Volunteer.

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