DOBSON — When people think about the Joan & Howard Woltz Hospice Home in Dobson, they probably think it’s a place where people go to spend their final days — but according to those who work there, the home is not just a place to die, it’s a place to really live.
Mary Beth Wood, the director of the hospice home, said the facility is a place where patients come to have their symptoms managed, so that they can go home to live out their days.
“We had one go home this morning,” said Wood last Friday.
She said 12 to 15 percent of patients either go home or to another facility after they are discharged from the home.
Most patients who come to hospice have a diagnosis from their doctor that they have about six months to live, Wood said. But, she said, under hospice care, some patients improve and outlive that diagnosis.
Another way the home helps patients celebrate life is to host birthday and anniversary parties. Recently, a wedding of a male patient and his bride was held under the portico in front of the facility. The couple did not want any publicity of the event, so their names have not been released.
Stewart Roten, the chaplain at the home, said that was the fourth wedding he has officiated in his 13 years working with hospice. He also has performed several baptisms for patients.
Wood said a Christmas tree that is decorated for the different seasons also stays up all year long for patients who may not see another Christmas.
She said another positive thing that happens quietly at the facility is that churches and civic organizations bring food for patients and staff in at night.
Since opening its doors on March 9, 2009, the hospice home has served about 1,600 patients.
“It’s peaceful here. You get a good feeling when you come through the doors,” said Wood.
Roten said because people do come to hospice to spend their final days, the staff stays positive for themselves and for patients.
“Most of us couldn’t work here because patients do pass away. We eject normalcy into our conversations to stay positive,” said Roten.
He said simple things like talking about recipes of the food people bring in is just one of the ways they do that. He said one family brought in a batch of pinto beans that had a lot of peppers in them. He said the family knew he loves spicy food, so they took great delight in watching him sweat as he ate the hot peppers.
He said another example of how patients celebrate life happened when one of the patient’s grandsons shot a deer then drove it to the facility for him to see.
“That brought him a lot of joy. Life continues here in all of the things that make life special,” said Roten.
He said patients come to the home from all over the country and the world. One patient was a Seminole Indian. He said his sister placed a feather on his pillow, of which she later burned and scattered the ashes after he passed away. She also requested that at the time of his death, that the battery be removed from the clock in his room. She then asked to keep it to remember the exact moment he died. She also wanted the door to the outside left open so that his spirit could leave.
Roten said that an annual Pow Wow that is held in State Road is named after that patient, Benny Bodenheimer.
He said the hospice home also makes great efforts to honor veterans with a program called, “We Honor Vets.”
Another story about the sweet things that happen there, Roten said, includes when the Wings of Glory motorcycle group held a fundraising ride for the home. The group also had a barbecue on the property and had gospel groups come out to sing. During that event, one patient, who turned 102 that day, wanted to go outside and see everyone. He said before she came back in, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
“There were hundreds of people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. That was a lot of fun,” said Roten.
Another special offering at hospice are the volunteers who come to sit with patients when their final hours have come if friends or family are not able to be there for them.
“We don’t want anyone to die alone,” he said.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.