Hospice care is a special program for patients nearing the end of their lives. In many cases it allows them to stay at home with family.
Burt Wilson was just 55 years old when doctors told him he had ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Burt knew his condition was terminal and he had many important decisions to make regarding his care, but his focus was still on Chris, his bride of 31 years.
"Burt was more concerned with getting more help for me and we had hospice come out and meet with all of us as a family, and he made the decision to go on to hospice." Said Chris Wilson.
For the next few months Burt was placed in the care of nurse Kim Griffith. Kim and the other hospice workers spent part of each day at the Wilson's home, making sure Burt and Chris got exactly what they needed.
"You know it really is an honor and privilege to walk those last moments of life with them, I think it is a mission and I think Avera does it very well." Said Griffith.
Burt was forced to watch his strength quickly leave him, but Chris says despite the hand he'd been dealt, Burt found peace.
"He was amazing, he would always have a laugh and a smile for everyone who came to see him." Said Wilson.
"He knew his body was giving up on him but he never gave up on the people around him or what was going on, until his last day Burt had a beautiful smile." Said Griffith.
Avera Queen of Peace's Hospice Director Dr. Pat Malters was also Burt's personal physician. She says it's never easy watching patients near death, and the process can become routine for hospice workers. But seeing her friend in that position, to have such a peace and understanding with the diagnosis; it taught her a valuable lesson.
"Watching someone die in a graceful manner and die with humor and do those types of things was a learning experience for me so I got taught a lot by the experience." Said Dr. Malters.
Burt's last wish was to see the birth of his grandson Logan. It was a goal he achieved. Two days later, the Lord called him home. Burt only had 18 months on this earth after his ALS diagnosis. But thanks to the care he and his family received, Chris says every hour of every day was well spent.
"We got to have some real quality time with Burt because I was able to keep him home, and I knew he was comfortable to the very end." Said Wilson.
Avera Queen of Peace offers hospice care for terminal patients in nursing homes as well as in home care. The service is covered by medicaid and there is no additional charge for families. For more information about hospice care just call 877-AT-AVERA.