Hospice: Making the Most of Every Day

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on December 26, 2018

As a former long-haul truck driver, Dave Blankenship has led a colorful life. He’s driven coast-to-coast, met all types of people and seen many wonders of nature. 

One time in Southport, Maine, for instance, he’d just unloaded a shipment of steel when someone shouted to him: “The whales are in! Come with us!” He followed the steel plant’s workers down to the ocean and watched a school of whales jumping and cavorting. “That was amazing!” he said.

Another time, in Novia Scotia, he got to marvel at the aurora borealis, and in California he observed salmon swimming upstream to spawn. “There were so many, you could reach right out and grab one,” he said.  

“I’ve put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Pacific Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico,” Blankenship mused. “I’ve driven probably millions of miles, and I’ve seen a lot through that windshield.”

One thing he can’t forget: the accidents and road deaths. “I always carried extra sheets with me, to cover the body,” he said. “Usually I was the first one there.”

Quality of Life

Now, as a patient with Carilion Clinic Hospice, Blankenship is intent on getting the most out of his remaining days.

In fact he credits the hospice team with turning his life around. When he was first diagnosed with head and neck cancer, he had great trouble managing his pain.

“Dave was in so much pain at first,” said his sister, Alice Blankenship. “He was hardly able to move.” 

“After we made the initial call to hospice one morning, they came out to help him that afternoon,” she said. “They were able to get him moving and to feel little pain."

Blankenship is thrilled that he’s even been able to get back to woodworking, a favorite hobby.

He said he’d earlier been "misled" about hospice. He thought it meant someone came in and gave you medicine, then you died.  

“Instead, they’ve kept me alive,” he said. “They really help me manage the pain.” 

“They check on me all the time, and they call every Friday to make sure I have everything I need for the weekend,” he noted. “They’re so responsive.”

“They’re also doggone friendly people,” he added. “They have become my friends.”

Hospice Care 

Carilion Clinic Hospice offers many types of help, including:

  •  Skilled nursing care 
  •  Home nursing assistance
  •  Social workers 
  •  Bereavement counselors
  •  Non-denominational chaplains available to the patient and family
  •  Volunteers available to sit with a patient or provide caregiving breaks to the family. Some volunteers choose to be a part of a choir that visits patients with song or participate in services to honor patients.
  • Board-certified music therapists
  • Pet therapy
  • Massage therapists
  • A medical director and nurse practitioner 
  • Grief support groups for all ages and many types of loss 

“Hospice is about living and making the most of every day,” said Sharon Parker, R.N., manager of Carilion Roanoke Hospice. “Hospice patients sometimes experience isolation as they deal with their progressing disease. Hospice provides a network of support through multi-disciplines as well as volunteers.

“We are honored to be a part of Mr. Blankenship's care team. He has given as much to us as we've given to him through his outreach to the team and expressions of gratitude.”

A Community Resource

Blankenship and his sister are both grateful for all the help they’ve received from the Hospice staff.

“I don’t think Dave would have made it these past three months if it hadn’t been for Hospice,” Alice said.

Blankenship agreed. “I’d be dead now if it wasn’t for them.”

He also hopes to let others know about Hospice’s services. “I want people in our community to know what a great resource they are for helping you maintain quality of life and helping you live as long as possible with minimal pain,” he said.

“It’s a great program,” he stated. “I’d recommend it to anyone.”

A Patient's Story: Walking Again after 15 Years.