Wishes Granted

Roger and Debbie reunited with Bailey.

By Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS

Making a wish can be a magical process. Sometimes it involves a long-held dream. Sometimes, an impulse. The wish maker often thinks about what it will be like when, or if, the dream comes true. Of course, some dreams are more realistic than others.

The act of fulfilling a wish is a privilege. Some organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, or Disney, do a marvelous job at it. No matter whether it’s done on a regular basis or not, the opportunity to fulfill a wish is a unique, special moment. And granting a wish can be a gift that’s not soon forgotten.

At Family Hospice and Palliative Care, we strive to honor patients’ and families’ wishes every day. We take pride in providing the care, comfort level and dignity that our patients desire and deserve.

Sometimes, we are blessed with the opportunity to do more. Two such opportunities arose recently and I am happy to report that our staff worked a little magic.

Roger and Debbie returned recently to the Pittsburgh area so Roger could be under Family Hospice care. Roger, a cancer patient, and his wife had moved to Vero Beach, Florida with their seven year-old Yellow Lab, Bailey. Roger and Debbie didn’t have children and Bailey truly was part of the family – but when they returned to Pittsburgh they were not able to bring Bailey along.

Roger’s dying wish was to have Bailey back at his side.

His team of caregivers from Family Hospice recognized this very real need to help Roger,  and got to work. With the help of a volunteer organization called “Pilots N Paws,” Family Hospice arranged for Bailey to be transported home aboard private planes.

Bailey made it to Roger’s side – and Roger died a few days later. “It was wonderful for him,” said Debbie, of the fact that Roger’s wish was granted.

The beautiful story gained attention both locally and nationally, on WTAE-TV and The Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, not long after Bailey came home to Pittsburgh, another wish was coming together at The Center for Compassionate Care Canterbury, our inpatient unit in Lawrenceville.

Karen is a cancer patient who was admitted to our Center for Compassionate Care Canterbury for pain management. Our staff describes Karen as a delightful woman who handles her illness with grace and dignity. Karen’s husband Tim mentioned to our staff that he found Karen’s wish list – and one of her wishes was to renew her wedding vows with her husband.

So once again the Family Hospice team got to work. There were flowers in the chapel at Canterbury. Tim wore a boutonniere. Karen had her nails done by a Family Hospice staffer, and carried a lovely bouquet. Family Hospice spiritual care specialist Mary Ann Trifaro officiated at the renewal of vows ceremony – which included family members and staff in attendance. Canterbury inpatient unit manager Megan King served as one of Karen’s attendants. And after the ceremony, Karen’s motorized scooter even sported a sign reading: “Just Married – Again.” Family Hospice Quality of Life program coordinator Paula Church recorded video and took photos of the event so Karen and Tim could cherish the memory.

Our staff that witnessed and took part in the ceremony expressed how beautiful the experience was. More than a few tears were shed that day, as it was crystal clear how much Karen and Tim love each other.

We never know when these or similar opportunities will present themselves, but our team is grateful for every one that comes along. Playing a part in granting a wish – no matter how large or small that part is – is an honor.  We thank Roger, Karen and their loved ones for allowing us to help make a difference.

Have you played a part in granting a wish? Have you witnessed a dream made true for someone special? Please visit our Facebook page and share your story: www.facebook.com/familyhospicepa – or access our Facebook page from the top of any page on our website (www.familyhospice.com).

Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS, is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care and Past Chairperson of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. He may be reached at [email protected] or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care serves nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at www.familyhospice.com and www.facebook.com/familyhospicepa.