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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

May's Articles.....

Sailing into a Familiar New Career

“Put the coffee pot on, so we can talk,” are often the first words spoken by Margaret Rogers, when she meets new people in their homes. Mrs. Rogers is an energetic, vivacious woman who has never retired, despite what some might think of her 78 years. She was an operating room nurse during the early days of open heart surgery, and assisted with many first time knee and hip replacements.

A native Floridian from Palatka, she found herself in Maryland with her husband who was serving in the Army. She took an extended vacation after nearly 30 years of nursing, to live with her husband on their sailboat until she convinced him to pull into harbor at Patrick Air Force Base. In 1982, she took a three-month long, intense refresher course in nursing at Orlando Regional Hospital where she discovered that only two things had not changed since she’d left her profession four years earlier. Despite the unknown technology and new prescriptions she had to learn, she still recognized the patients and the bedpans. She returned to work on Wuesthoff Hospital’s cancer floor and was appalled at how elderly or terminally ill patients were being forced to receive intrusive care, and felt that “The things we can do are not always the things we should do.”

Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care is a non-profit organization that has been providing end-of-life care to the residents of Brevard County since 1984. Margaret Rogers was one of the county‘s first hospice nurses, and has been providing inspiration and comfort for more than two decades. She agrees with Dame Cicely Saunders who said of her patients, "You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die."

Mrs. Rogers has evolved with her love of nursing, and has become a public speaker for Brevard Hospice, which offers a variety of public presentations and educational services. Mrs. Rogers explains that palliative care is simply comfort care for the dying. “No one wants to come hear me talk about end of life issues, because no one wants to talk about dying,” she said with a wink. But nearly everyone will come to hear homespun wisdom and learn what other people’s grandmothers have taught them. Mrs. Rogers was fortunate, as a young woman, to have a grandmother who was not afraid of death.

When Mary Powers was diagnosed with the late stages of breast cancer, in the early 1940’s, she was already advanced in her years. There was little that modern medicine could do, but offer her radiation and pain killers. Mrs. Rogers said that her grandmother was not hospitalized, and used her remaining time to educate everyone about dying, without realizing what she was doing. Mrs. Powers said, “God puts us in brand new houses as infants. We take our house to the doctor to fix it when it breaks. At some point, God looks at us and says, ‘That old house isn’t fit to live in anymore.” Mrs. Rogers comforts her patients’ families by telling them, “That’s not her body that died. It’s just the old house she lived in.”

Mrs. Rogers never bashes modern technology, and she loves her life as a nurse. However, she believes, “If we can’t do something for the patient, we should not do anything to the patient.” She is an advocate of hospice and comfort care, and encourages everyone to get a Living Will.

A Living Will is a legal document which would, in the event of a terminal illness or when someone is in a persistent vegetative state, clearly state their wishes for them. Mrs. Rogers knows that, with today’s medical technology, people’s bodies can be kept alive, despite their personal wishes. She said “If you don’t have a living will, you will not have anyone speak on your behalf. Today’s science can keep you going like the Ever Ready Bunny.” Wuesthoff Hospice offers free consultation and free Living Wills. No attorney is required for the signing of a Living Will, and Mrs. Rogers believes that no one is too old or too young to sign one. “They do not require notarization, but do require one additional signature to your own.” She stressed the importance of giving copies of Living Wills to family members, and even friends who might be involved in end of life care to ease any confusion about final wishes.

In the Middle Ages, monks provided hotels that they called Hospices where they provided, food, comfort, and even medical attention for travelers. They said that they were “providing hospitality to people on a journey,” and that is exactly what today’s Hospice is about. Many people think of “cancer” when they hear “the Big C” but for Margaret Rogers and other Hospice workers, “the Big C means Comfort.” Modern hospices are also providing hospitality and care for people on a journey – a journey through life.

Hospice is for people who are nearing the end of their life, but hospice is not a death sentence, and should not be considered as a last resort, nor should hospice be feared or dreaded. Hospice is a concept, not a place. Hospice goes wherever the patient is and wherever the patient and his or her family need comfort. Hospice care occurs in homes, assisted living communities, nursing homes, in cars under bridges, and even in prisons. Hospice care is paid 100% for by Medicare, most insurances and Medicaid.

Mrs. Rogers says that only about 10% of the people who could benefit from Hospice, take advantage of this untapped resource. Many people fear that going to hospice or even calling on the help of a hospice nurse will encourage a patient to give up hope, “which is sad, because then, we are denying our loved ones of quality care that they need.” She explained that hospice is usually called upon when in a doctor’s best judgment; a patient has no more than six months to live. Each patient is reevaluated after three months, and she has seen cases where patients not only were released from hospice, but were able to continue quality living for many years. Many hospice patients continue to drive or putter about their gardens while receiving comfort care.

Hospice provides free medication, nurses, nurses aids, medical equipment, “literally everything a patient needs for comfort care,” Mrs. Rogers emphasized. She stated that hospice provides care for the patients 30% of the time, and the remaining 70% of the time, the care is for the patients’ families. When a patient dies, hospice care does not end. Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care provides grief support for those left behind. With over 300 volunteers, Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice has created five unique outlets and support groups for grief stricken family members. A Safe Place is for the families of recently deceased patients, and members are allowed to heal at their own pace, and encouraged to grieve in their own ways. Once people begin to feel less a sense of loss, and want to reconnect with others who may have lost family members, they are encouraged to attend a JUGGS meeting. JUGGS means Just Us Guys & Gals, and provides social outings for those who are still grieving, yet are ready to resume an active lifestyle. Hospice also offers support for grieving parents and siblings of children and those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

“Often,” Mrs. Rogers said, with a touch of sadness, “people won’t talk about death or dying. This makes death a lonely place. Nobody deserves to die alone. That is why we have hospice.”

“Death is a time of remembrance,” she said. People often use their last days to recall fond memories with loved ones. Hospice helps patients, friends, and family members be comfortable enough with their situations to be able to relive those warmhearted and caring moments. “Everyone,” she said, “deserves to die with dignity. Feeding tubes defy nature, and hospice is here to help people die an easy, natural death.”

Margaret Rogers met Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who has written many best selling books, including “On Death and Dying”, when she received the first National Heart of Hospice Award in 1993. Charlie Antoni of Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice said, “We think Margaret is a National Treasure and we want to share her with the world.” Yet Mrs. Rogers protests, “This is not about me! I am only here as a liaison for Hospice. Hospice is the hero, here, not me.”

Mrs. Rogers will speak to groups of one or one hundred, but she refuses to talk about death as a villain. “Death is an end of life issue. We all die. How we die can be changed with hospice.” Mrs. Rogers likes to remember her grandmother and spins delightful tales of life, death, and dying with dignity. She reflects on her life as a hospice nurse, and evokes laughter from her audience, as she tells stories of how she does not mind confronting doctors and telling them how she feels. By the time she finishes speaking, audiences are in tears of laughter, and lined up to sign their own Living Wills, because “No matter how you feel about death and dying, you need to make your choice while you still can.”

For more information on Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care, or to make arrangements to have Mrs. Rogers speak to you, call Charlie Antoni at 253-2222, extension 4731.


Bringing a Love of Music to Everyone

Twenty-two years ago, Suzanne Gardner became the musical director at Gloria Dei Episcopal Church in Cocoa, so that she could structure her schedule around her three children and earn a little “diaper money”. Originally from Virginia, she now lives in Cocoa, and teaches at Cocoa High School, where she is the Director of the band, chorus, and orchestra.

Thirteen years ago, Ms. Gardner was introduced to the idea of directing a handbell choir, though she wasn’t sure she knew how, or that there would be enough interest in the congregation. A donor had offered to purchase for Gloria Dei, a starter set of English Handbells, at a cost of more than $10,000. She did not want to see the investment wasted. She said, “I would hate for someone to donate a set of bells if I can’t do anything with them and then they end up stored in a closet somewhere.”

Within a few weeks, she learned that a set of 3 octave bells had arrived. Today, Gloria Dei has three handbell choirs which use 5 octaves and chimes providing a rich, full sound.

Keith Burt was one of Ms. Gardner’s young piano students, when she asked him to consider working with handbells. "Just try it for one rehearsal!" He went on to direct the handbell choir at Cocoa Presbyterian church, until he moved to North Carolina to pursue a professional career with the Raleigh Ringers, a very active organization of handbell musicians. Today, he directs handbells at St. Philip Lutheran Church in Raleigh. Born in New Jersey but raised in Florida, he now lives in Raleigh, NC and expects to be with the Raleigh Ringers as they become one of only a few professional handbell ringers in the world.

Ms. Gardner says, “Handbells are like a giant keyboard with each person hitting 3 to 4 keys.”

Ms. Gardner enjoys helping people discover the musician hidden within. She said, “It is so cool to be able to help someone and to give them an outlet to play a musical instrument, especially when they never thought they could.”

Handbells are not just for churches or holidays. One of Ms. Gardner’s handbell choirs is called Joyful Sound, and they have performed patriotic songs at Colonial Williamsburg, holiday songs at Disney World, the Millennium Mall, and several Orlando resorts, as well as their weekly performances at Gloria Dei Episcopal Church.

“Music is evolving for handbells. Fun music is being made for bells now, such as show tunes, Broadway, classical, and even rock and roll songs such as Stairway to Heaven,” she said.

The members of the choirs range in age from ten years old, to senior citizens in their seventies or older, yet these musicians all work together with precision timing and attentive ears. Ms. Gardner said, ““Ringing Handbells is like a mental puzzle and everyone has the pieces to put together a complete picture.”

Ms. Gardner wanted to give her choirs the opportunity to play non-liturgical music with other bell ringers, so she began the annual Bell Fest twelve years ago. “It’s cool to be involved in giving the love of music to others,” she said.

Ms. Gardner finds her position very gratifying. She said, “I love being able to mentor other people in creating their own programs. It gives me a good feeling to be able to see other music directors do for their programs what I have been able to do with mine.”

First Baptist Church of Cocoa, located at 750 Brevard Avenue in Cocoa Village, will host the Twelfth Annual Bell Fest on May 15, 2005 at 6:00pm. The concert is sponsored by Gloria Dei Episcopal Church Cocoa under the direction of Suzanne Gardner, Director of Music.

This year, twelve choirs will participate in the twelfth annual Bell Fest on May 15th. The choirs that will ring in this year’s Bell Fest are from: Gloria Dei Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church of Cocoa, First United Methodist Church, all of Cocoa; Merritt Island Presbyterian Church and Divine Mercy Catholic Church School of Merritt Island

There is no fee to attend this event and a reception will be held after the concert in the Christian Activities Center.

For information, contact Suzanne Gardner at Gloria Dei Episcopal Church at 321-632-6812.