Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tonganoxie volunteer relishes work with terminally ill patients

March 21, 2007

Vicki Brawner, Tonganoxie, knows how difficult it is to care for a terminally ill family member.

When her father was diagnosed with lung cancer several years ago, he received palliative care in his home town of Jefferson City, Mo. Palliative care supports patients' and their families' end-of-life goals including dignity, comfort and respect. "I saw first hand what palliative care was able to do for him and for our family," Brawner says. "They were wonderful."

So when a member of the Providence and St. John Palliative Care Program approached Brawner about volunteering to work with the team, her answer was "yes."

"I just wanted to be able to give back to other patients and families the care I felt my family had received," Brawner said. "I saw this as the perfect opportunity to do that."

A retired claims manager for the Boilermakers National Health Welfare Fund, Brawner now volunteers every Tuesday to work with the Providence and St. John Palliative Care Program. After extensive training, she began her volunteer duties in June 2006. Since then Brawner has had the opportunity to care for at least a dozen of the team's patients.

"Many times family members don't want the patient to be alone, so what I do is sit with the patient so they can take a break or run errands," Brawner said.

For some patients she provides a friendly ear--someone with the time to just sit and listen. For others, she literally holds their hands. "I am here for the patient -- whatever their needs," Brawner says.

"The volunteers just bring so much to our patients," said Christian Sinclair, M.D., the Palliative Care Program's board-certified medical director. "They have become integral to the care we provide."

In the past seven years the Providence and St. John Palliative Care Program has helped thousands of patients and their families. The program uses an interdisciplinary collaborative approach to patient care focusing on relieving pain and managing symptoms; improving quality of life; and assisting with challenging end-of-life issues.

For Brawner, working with the program has been a truly rewarding experience.

"As a part of the team, the patients mean a lot to me," Brawner says. "I feel like I'm really doing something worthwhile with my retirement--something I feel good about, but most importantly, something that helps others."

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