180 Days and Then Some

arspilka July 30th, 2011, 3:49 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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I have been a bit neglectful of my blogging responsibilities of late, something I don’t need to remind my VNSNY colleagues. July has been a month of transitions for me. I have a new role at work, which is both exciting and daunting. And while I am still learning to balance official responsibilities with unofficial responsibilities, and taking on new tasks while maintaining all of the old ones would seem to be what is proving to be most difficult, it is not. And this brings me to the other transition…

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Another Word About Organ Donation

arspilka May 17th, 2011, 5:01 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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When I wrote about organ donation in February, I knew of one example where a friend’s father donated several organs and my friend met one of the recipients. While the pre-visit jitters were not at all justified, I completely understood them.

In today’s New York Times, there is a wonderful article about a 38-year-old man who suffered a brain hemorrhage and whose wife agreed to donate his organs. In total, EIGHT people were given hope because of Julio and Mirtala Garcia’s selflessness. Mrs. Garcia met with five of the recipients last…

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Honoring Diana’s Memory

arspilka May 14th, 2011, 2:59 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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In the case of Prince William, when every person on the planet feels a connection to your mother, how do you do remember her at your wedding with honor, respect, and most importantly, in a way that has meaning for you?

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An Intangible Benefit of Volunteering

arspilka March 28th, 2011, 9:52 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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Twice in the month of March it was my honor to speak at two different volunteer trainings at the offices of VNSNY near Herald Square. Each of these weekend days required traveling through the city early when there were few people on the road or on the sidewalk. It was like the city had not yet awakened, or if it had awakened, it had not yet had its regular coffee with skim milk.

I really enjoy speaking to new classes of volunteers because I want to convey to them how special they…

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Have a Heart: Some Facts About Organ Donation

arspilka February 8th, 2011, 11:35 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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Heart

qthomasbower's Flickr photostream

Whether be-ribboned with silk or cut out of red construction paper, you can’t help notice the prevalence of hearts this month. Just like all shades of pink have been used to brand breast cancer awareness, “Go Red!” is the mantra of February, American Heart Month.

And with good reason. Heart disease is the number-one cause of death of women 20 and older. In fact, 82 million Americans have at least one or more types of cardiovascular disease. There are certainly many reasons to maintain a healthy heart and many…

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When You Meet a Stranger’s Husband

arspilka January 20th, 2011, 11:34 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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I received a very warm response to the blog “When You Meet a Stranger,” due in no small part to the fact that my friend Deirdre posted it to her Facebook page. This blog is the flip side of the initial blog, and that is why it is called “When You Meet a Stranger’s Husband.” The names have been changed to protect the privacy of all involved.

I made a vigil visit to New York Methodist on a Saturday afternoon. Other than knowing the patient was in her 50s, I knew nothing.…

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Not Your Ordinary “In Memoriam”

arspilka December 21st, 2010, 7:22 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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Man of steelThe end of 2010 is almost upon us and I, for one, could not be happier. The conclusion of the year always brings with it its share of “In Memoriam” presentations, and the web is the ideal medium to present a slideshow of those who have passed. The Oscars have their version, too, usually accompanied by mournful music and a well-intentioned introduction.

In the past, VNSNY Hospice has held its own memorial service once a year. Families were invited to submit a photo for a slideshow and donate a piece of…

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The Importance of Old Friends

arspilka October 28th, 2010, 10:31 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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Tonight I had dinner with my old friend, Dave. Dave and I met the first week of my freshman year at UCLA. We performed improvisational comedy together every week for five years at school. Our paths have crossed off and on over these, um, 20 plus-years, but we try to have dinner once a year. This year we’re on a roll – we’ve had two.

Dave is a drama therapist and life coach, which allows him to offer up some pretty astute insights, especially when I’m not expecting them.  As I…

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When You Meet a Stranger

arspilka October 18th, 2010, 9:34 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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New York Methodist Hospital, my local medical center in Brooklyn, has created an in-patient hospice unit and a group of VNSNY Hospice Volunteers has been cross-trained to be NYM volunteers. Our mission is to be on call for patients in need, particularly to be present at the bedside of an actively dying person.

Around 4 p.m. last Thursday, the e-mail went out asking for volunteers to be with a patient that night. I signed up for the 10 p.m. to midnight shift. While it seems an odd time for volunteer work,…

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A Gift at the End of Life

arspilka September 28th, 2010, 10:45 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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When hospice volunteers are assigned patients, we are given guidance by members of the entire medical team: the nurse, the social worker, the volunteer manager, the spiritual care counselor and the bereavement counselor. We are all working together to help the patient say good bye in a way that offers peace.

Among the important milestones are helping the patient say: I’m sorry, I forgive you, thank you, I love you, goodbye. Not all statements are required for all situations, but we try to be mindful of the dynamics at play, which…

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