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Cost of Gasoline: Pricey -- Cost of Hospital Volunteering: Priceless

Posted Dec 12 2008 3:42pm

Katevalerie01_2Click on photo for larger image

Kate Kelsall (left) and Valerie Graham (right), both Parkinson's patients, volunteer as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Patient and Family Liaisons at the University of Colorado Hospital

I was stressin’ over the price of gas when I walked into the hospital yesterday. My preoccupation with rising gas prices was interrupted by a friendly toot-toot of a passing car that had license plates from a neighboring state. Inside the car were the patient and family I was meeting.

For the last six months, Valerie Graham and I have volunteered as a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Patient and Family Liaisons at the University of Colorado Hospital. Between us, we have driven more than 2400 miles visiting with patients and their families, accompanying them to their neurology appointments and hospitalizations. Valerie and I were at the hospital to accompany a DBS patient and his family for his first programming session of the pacemaker to his brain.

My eyes teared when I read yet another thank you note from the patient’s mother. Valerie and I each received two separate thank you notes. When I asked permission from the patient and his mother to print the note, they generously agreed. One of the notes from the patient's parents follows:

March 18, 2008

Dear Kate,

What a special name! Our granddaughter is named Kate. It just goes with special people!

My husband* and I want to thank you for your support of our son* and us. It is truly a gift that we have appreciated so much and certainly will never forget.

Your calm acceptance of your life really came through to us and eased our minds and right away, we could see a good future for our son.*

What a blessing you are!

Parents* of DBS patient*

*In the letter, first names were used. I substituted patient, son, husband, mother and parents to maintain anonymity.

After the appointment, I reflected on the cost of gas to reach patients and families in this program and experiences that generated a letter such as this. While someone still has to pay to fill the gas tank, the experiences of the DBS patients, families, Valerie and me are priceless.

Related Story:

Writing Makes a Difference
By Kate Kelsall and Sheila Bender

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