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Lin Sue Cooney: One of the best things about hospice is making dreams come true

Tressie watches her virtual light rail ride

Hospice patient Tressi Jennings alway regretted never taking a train ride. The Hospice of the Valley staff had it covered and created a virtual video train ride for her. 

The Arizona Republic
July 25, 2017

During my 34 years in TV news, people would often go out of their way to thank me for a great story or to praise the news team. These days, I’m still stopped by folks who want to share a lovely compliment—but now, it sounds something like this:

“I just want you to know Hospice of the Valley took such good care of my…”

Sometimes there are tears as they recall the devastating loss of their beloved brother, wife, grandparent or best friend. And most of the time, they mention how compassionate the nurse was. They describe a chaplain who knew just the right words to pray. “Please tell your bereavement counselor that she saved my life,” one man recently confided in the dairy section of a grocery store.

They may reminisce about the sweet volunteer with a guitar who sang away Dad’s pain and loneliness. Or apologetically confess how our social worker listened to Mom’s rambling stories for hours.

What I find so extraordinary about the people I work with is their desire to exceed expectations. They love discovering what patients care about. They’re passionate about making dreams come true.

And I’m astounded by the myriad of ways they make that happen. From little kindnesses like balloons and ice cream on a patient’s birthday to things far more elaborate, like a wedding.

One of our cancer patients was declining rapidly and would not live long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle in a few weeks. So admission coordinator Shirley flew into action.

Within hours, she arranged for a chaplain, cake, wedding dress and marriage license. The bride’s sister rushed to the hospital from Colorado. Vows were whispered in the patient’s ICU room with the crowd spilling into the hallway. Our sweet patient died the next day, with his dream fulfilled.

I was honored to help with a much smaller wish.

While spending the day with Shellie, one of our nursing assistants, I met a charming couple in Goodyear.

AJ absolutely doted on his 77-year-old wife, attending to her every need with great devotion. His one sorrow was the ripening peaches on his tree—because Ellen was far too sick and weak to make his favorite pie anymore.

Without skipping a beat, Shellie promised to gather the harvest when ready. Weeks later, she brought bags of juicy peaches to my house for a glorious day of baking luscious pies and cobblers. AJ and Ellen had plenty enough to freeze… and we shared their happiness, knowing they could enjoy their favorite dessert for months.

Lin Sue Cooney and nursing assistant Shellie helped a couple from Goodyear make their favorite peach treats.

And then there’s Tressi’s story.

At 103 and nearing the end of her life, she regretted never having ridden a train.

Social worker Erin contacted Metro Light Rail with a brilliant idea—why not take our patient on a virtual train ride?

Valley Metro created a video from Tressi’s point of view as if she were buying a ticket, looking out the window and greeting other people on the train.

Tressi watched the adventure on a laptop—wonder written all over her face. And this was a trip she could experience over and over again with the click of a mouse.

What a gift to serve this way. To care for people and then find a way to care a little more. It takes time to listen, a soft heart to perceive someone’s need… and commitment to make the magic happen. But it’s an amazing legacy to leave our families.

And as Tressi found—sometimes you don’t have to go after your dreams. Sometimes, your dreams come to you.

Watch Tressi's Magic Train Ride here.