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Valley Baptist Volunteers, Employees Show Dedication to Terminally-ill Patients Through Compassionate Program

Feb 23, 2018

HARLINGEN/BROWNSVILLE – While hospital volunteers at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville serve many important roles at both facilities, making sure terminally-ill patients spend their final moments with someone by their side is one responsibility that is taken very seriously.

Hospital volunteers and employees at both hospitals have received several state-wide awards for their service to hospital patients, including for serving as “compassionate companions” for terminally-ill patients who have no family members to be by their side during their final hours of life.

The volunteers received the Texas Association of Healthcare Volunteers’ “Past President’s Award of Excellence” for Valley Baptist’s “No One Dies Alone” Program during the state-wide organization’s annual convention in 2015.

Chaplain Joe Perez, Valley Baptist Health System Vice President for Pastoral Sercies, and Katie McCarty, Valley Baptist Health System Director of Volunteer Services, work closely with those who volunteer for the “No One Dies Alone” program, which provides the reassuring presence of a volunteer companion to dying patients who would otherwise be alone.

“With the support of the Valley Baptist nursing and chaplain staff, companions are able to help provide patients with a most valuable human gift: dignity at the end of their lives,” Perez said. “No one is born alone and, in the best of circumstances, no one dies alone. Yet, from time to time, terminally-ill patients come to our hospital who have neither family nor close friends to be with them as they near the end of life.”

A total of 40 volunteers – including volunteers from the community and some Valley Baptist employees who volunteer when they’re not working -- currently serve in the “No One Dies Alone” program at Valley Baptist.  These include 25 “Compassionate Companions” at Valley Baptist in Harlingen and 15 volunteers at Valley Baptist-Brownsville.

“Our volunteers provide a tremendous service for Valley patients, staff and the community every day of the year, and there are many opportunities for interested residents to help through the hospital’s Volunteer Auxiliary program,” McCarty said. “The ‘No One Dies Alone’ program is a particularly meaningful way to help a fellow human being in their time of greatest need.”

McCarty went on to explain the program, which has been in service at both hospitals since 2012.

“The project aims to help those who are alone without family or friends, those who have family members who are unable to be present, and those in the last 72 hours of life,” McCarty said. “We subscribe to the words spoken by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who said, ‘No one should die alone… Each human should die with the sight of a loving face.’ The goal of this project is to have someone present for all patients who do not have family available at the patient’s last hours.”

Adrienne Reyes, an employee at Valley Baptist-Harlingen who participates as a volunteer in the “No One Dies Alone” program, said that being by a terminally ill patient’s bedside in their final moments is a great responsibility, recalling a recent experience with a patient in the program.

“I prayed with the patient, asking the Lord for a smooth transition and for his comfort. I stood by his bedside and told him I was still with him, and there was nothing to be afraid of. I told him the Lord was here with him also and that it was okay to just relax,” Reyes said. “About a minute later, I noticed he had stopped breathing. I called the nurse and the chaplain. I pray that he heard my prayers and knew he was not alone.”

A total of nine volunteers participated in this patient vigil, and a total of 21 hours and 40 minutes of volunteer hours were spent at the bedside.

At Valley Baptist, hospital volunteers serve in several dozen different departments of the hospital, with their duties ranging from offering hospitality coffee service to families in waiting areas and delivering patient items to helping staff the visitor’s information desk and the hospital gift shop.   

For more information on volunteer opportunities available at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, please contact Katie McCarty at (956) 389-1193 or e-mail: katie.mccarty@ValleyBaptist.net. For opportunities at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, please contact Volunteer Services Manager Lorraine Gonzales, at (956) 698-4059, or e-mail Lorraine.Gonzales@valleybaptist.net .

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