VA Illiana Health Care System, Danville, Illinois
Angel Wings Volunteers
Angel Wings Volunteers Bring Healing Presence to Dying Veterans
Frank was a Vietnam Veteran who arrived to the Danville VA palliative care unit after complications from a long illness. He was intermittently responsive enough to talk with staff when he arrived. The palliative care team discovered he had three children whom he hadn’t spoken to in over 20 years. As the end of his life was nearing, he wanted to reach out to them and they were so glad that he did. When the oldest son in Iowa received a call from the Palliative Care Chaplain that their Father was in the palliative care unit in the VA in Danville, he immediately got into the car and drove eight hours to see him, for what would be the last time. All three children were able to visit and show their Dad pictures of his grandchildren. They cried and laughed together as they shared stories and took one last family photo together. The children were extremely grateful for those final hours with their Father. After several days of visiting, and with great sadness, all three children returned to their jobs and families out of state.
Unfortunately, the Veteran had no friends or family locally. Although the palliative care staff spent as much time with the Veteran as they could, they felt that as people come into the world in the nurturing support of others, so too, they should leave the world in this way, with someone there at the bedside. Because of Frank and other Veterans dying alone it was clear something more needed to be done. Fortunately, a caring team led by Palliative Care Nursing Assistant, Kari Drollinger, decided to bring an innovative program that had started at a hospital in Oregon, to Danville.
With the support of her Nurse Manager, Sharon Buchanan and Kim Dalbey, Chief of Volunteer Services, Kari took on the challenge to implement No One Dies Alone at the Danville VA. She sought out input from many different people to make the program successful.
The first class of 10 "Angel Wings" Volunteers for the No One Dies Alone program were commissioned on October 20, 2010. Thanks to all of the wonderful Volunteers, Veterans will be able to receive a most precious gift, a reassuring presence and dignified death.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an Angel Wings Volunteer please contact Karie.Drolinger@va.gov or call Volunteer Services 217.554.5700 to learn more.