Shane Nolan, on behalf of his wife, Ann, SECU Hospice House Patient

“The peaceful way she died was a gift that every individual can have if they let thoughts of hospice into their lives early in their journey towards end of life. Thank you to Dr. Koffer, the amazing nurses, staff and volunteers at SECU Hospice House in Smithfield who gently guided Ann and me through a beautiful experience.”

This is a letter from Shane Nolan, whose wife, Ann, was cared for at the SECU Hospice House.

As a lung transplant patient with more than two wonderful postoperative years under her belt, it was a shock to receive terminal diagnosis on August 13, 2013. Her transplanted lungs had gone into an unstoppable rejection and she now faced a frightening pace of decline which culminated with her death at the SECU Hospice House on September 7th.

Prior to August, Ann and I were only vaguely aware of hospice. Truthfully, the word hospice meant dark and foreboding.  When the Duke Palliative care team put us in the hands of hospice, we were filled with dread.  How could we have failed at this transplant thing? How could we go from the curative…“all things are possible” environment of Duke to something called hospice?

On August 16th we encountered our first hospice home nurse. Despite our misconceptions, this was really our first hint that we had not been abandoned. This was the beginning of a wonderful hospice experience.

Home hospice nurses came into our home like biblical angels whose only goal was comfort and care. As a caretaker, I no longer felt like I was on a runaway bus heading for the edge of the cliff.  Hospice was here for “us”.

Experience….yes, that’s the best word to begin to describe our next encounter when it was time to enter the SECU Hospice House in Smithfield.  Actually another appropriate description might be “oasis” as it was an oasis for us in what was to be the last mile of Ann’s health odyssey.

Arriving at SECU Hospice House was like setting foot on an island, where the natives seem to provide for every need. Rationally it was a paradox. Here in 18 rooms with “end of life” dramas being played out, something else very special was happening in their midst. For their occupants, professional care was being administered with a level of love that would surprise even the most cynical.

The hospice experience as I have now seen is a joint one as it seemed someone was always making sure I, the caretaker, was okay.  From a warm cup of coffee to a warm hand on my shoulder, the staff and volunteers kept a vigil for both Ann and I as we neared the finish line.

Our introduction to hospice at the first indications of Ann’s diagnosis was the key. From Ann’s perspective, she was able to quickly gain trust in the home hospice nurse she was assigned. Ann was able to have those deeply personal “end of life” conversations with a trained professional who was able to read her mind it seemed. Ann was well prepared spiritually to die. Her daily conversations with God underpinned her view her life on earth was ending and her new eternal life was about to begin. Ann’s only concerns were about how it would be when she died.

She had always said she didn’t want to die at home. She didn’t want the last memories of her to be a hospital bed in the home. Ann has witnessed end of life ordeals for others and knew there was a better way. It was hospice.

On the morning of September 7th, as I sat by her bedside holding her hand, her heart stopped and she started her new life in Heaven. Her spiritual angels now took over her care from the earthy angels at SECU Hospice House. The peaceful way she died was a gift that every individual can have if they let thoughts of hospice into their lives early in their journey towards end of life.

Thank you to Dr. Koffer, the amazing nurses, staff and volunteers at SECU Hospice House in Smithfield who gently guided Ann and me through a beautiful experience. God bless you all.

Find more information about the SECU Hospice House:

SECU Hospice House
426 Hospital Rd, Smithfield, NC 27577
(919) 209-5100