Becky Hamilton retired from Hospice & Community Care in the summer of 2018 after twenty-five years of service. Shortly after her retirement, she was back at Hospice visiting patients as a PRN (as needed) nurse. Becky has a deep desire to help patients and families as they walk through a serious illness. A bonus in her return to work was working once again with her best friend and longtime nursing partner, Vicky Ferrell. Vicky has served as a nurse and now clinical coordinator with Hospice & Community Care for twenty-two years. Together Becky and Vicky hold hundreds of stories that make up Hospice & Community Care’s history. Recently they sat down to share just a few of their stories.
“When I started, Hospice was operating out of the old Rock Hill Post Office. I started part-time and then went fulltime. I served as the nurse for the Chester, Lancaster, Kershaw areas,” Vicky shared. “A lot of times, Becky and I would go out together as the “dynamic duo.” That way, if the visit was at night, we weren’t alone.” Vicky described one time when they had a surprise waiting for them when they got to the patient’s home. “We had a young man as our patient. When he died, Becky and I went there to take care of him. When we finished, the lady said, “What about grandma?” And we were like, “What about grandma?” We found out that grandma was dead too. It turned out that she died shortly after he died. We helped the family take care of her and called the funeral home back and told them we needed room for two.”
Vicky also shared a sweet memory of an event that allowed her to meet her now-husband. “When Hospice was relatively new in the region, we used to do a lot of events. One year we participated in a motorcycle run, and that is where I met my husband. I had a patient down in Chester, and his friend was on the news. This friend wanted to do something to raise money for Hospice, and he chose to do a motorcycle run. Gene Bradshaw, then the Director of Nursing, decided it would be good publicity to have hospice nurses ride in the event. So Marie Bott, a dear friend and hospice nurse, Becky, and I went to the ride. The organizers paired us up with drivers. Becky had an interesting time getting on the bike,” Vicky laughed. “A co-worker and I had to physically push her up on the bike because she is so short. My future husband was my driver, and when I got on that bike, and I told him, “If you dump me, I will kill you.” Luckily everything went great.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of caring for hospice patients comes when you can relieve stress and help them die peacefully. Often we find it is not the physical pain that worries the patients; it is worrying about who will take care of their loved possessions. “We had a patient here in town and he loved his chickens,” Becky shares. “As this disease progressed, he got weaker, and it was obvious that his time was short, and he didn’t want his family to get his chickens. He didn’t want the chickens killed. We needed a home for his chickens. So I called Vicky, and she took the chickens.” One chicken, Little Bitty, had a crossed beak and couldn’t eat properly. Vicky adopted the chicken so she would have a safe home. “She could only eat mush. But she loved watermelon so I would feed her watermelon,” said Vicky. Becky took a photo of Vicky with Little Bitty and gave it to the patient. “He was so happy because someone loved his chickens. When he died, he had Vicky’s picture with the chicken right on his dresser in his bedroom,” said Becky.
Between kittens, chickens, beagles, families, changing office locations, and many, many other adventures, Becky and Vicky still love their work. “We love the families and patients,” said Becky. “Even now, since I am doing these PRN visits, I love that I can give the families time and attention. I really love to sit down to get to know them.”
“It was hard for me to convert from being a nurse in homes and facilities to being in the office in clinical services,” admitted Vicky. “You become so attached to your patients and their families. There are hundreds of good memories from my years of caring for patients in their homes. I had a patient down in Great Falls who crocheted doilies. She was in her 90’s, and she would sell them. Everyone in the office had doilies. I think Gene Bradshaw had ten of them in his office.”
Vicky and Becky agree one of the best things about Hospice & Community Care is the addition of the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice house. “Having the house available to a family when they are exhausted from taking care of a patient or the patient needs intensive crisis care is such a gift. We all dreamed and worked so hard to make the Patrick House a reality. We knew there was a need,” said Vicky. “We were serving people in the community who struggled to care for their loved ones. So many people have elderly caregivers, children who live out of town, or caregivers that are still working. Before the Patrick Hospice House, there was no other inpatient hospice facility option. If a patient needed crisis care for pain and suffering, they had to go to the hospital.”
Hospice & Community Care is grateful to Becky and Vicky for sharing their stories as we celebrate 35 years of service to the community. Becky and Vicky are just two of the hundreds of people who have worked for Hospice & Community Care over the years. We are so thankful that compassionate and competent people continue to choose to work for our organization.