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Richmond/Petersburg, Virginia, United States
Andy Wichorek, Medi Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, Medical Services of America. With offices in both Richmond and Petersburg, we serve hospice patients and their families throughout Central and South Central Virginia.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Volunteer's Perspective

My name is Mariama Kalokoh and I’m a hospice volunteer. Before becoming a hospice volunteer, I had a somewhat vague idea of what the word hospice meant.  But I contacted Medi Home Health and Hospice and filled out a volunteer application. After being interviewed, I was accepted and went to the training. After learning the technicalities of hospice, I was bit intimidated and honestly a little frightened by the idea of working with a terminally ill patient, but I always kept an open mind.
Miss J with daughter 
I got my first assignment in February, and I was really excited to get started! My first visit was the complete opposite of what I imagined it would be: I imagined walking into a room blanketed by grief and sorrow, at the center of the room being a patient barely clinging to life. I imagined I would be overwhelmed by difficult emotion.  Instead, when I walked in I was greeted warmly by my patient’s daughter. She wore a huge smile on her face, and was so thrilled to see me! I was a bit shocked by this reaction because I had never met this woman, but she was so happy to see me; it was like we were long lost friends! I also met my patient’s son, who had a similar reaction. Finally, I met “Miss J,” and as I moved closer to her bed to greet her, her face lit up with a smile. All the preconceptions, reservations, intimidations and slightest amount of doubt in my mind about being a hospice volunteer were erased. I knew I was really going to enjoy being a volunteer!
Mariama with Miss J
On that first visit, Miss J mainly asked about me. It really took me by surprise how curious she was about my life, my background, and what I did outside of school. (During training we were told that because most of our patients are elderly and vulnerable, some may want to know something about us before they open up and tell us about themselves.)  
A beautiful trio!
During the course of my next couple of visits though, Miss J slowly opened up, telling me about her life: mainly her children and her work. She often confused me with characters from her life, and would ask me questions about her family members. Sometimes I would just answer and other times I corrected her. I always listened and asked questions so she could tell me more. Sometimes when she told certain stories she would get quiet in between, and I would move closer and hold her hand to let her know that I was still there. Other times she would laugh really loud, and I laughed right along with her. Miss J is actually a bit of a comedian when she tries! She has even offered to make me something to eat or teach me how to cook. At times she has complained about being in pain or being moved around too much. Overall, she was and is always happy to see me. And my mood usually changes for the better after I visit with her; there is just an aura about her and her family that always leaves me in a cheerful mood. I always feel like my presence is a relief from most of her quiet worries.
Miss J shows her warm smile!
Being a hospice volunteer is actually a very significant life changing experience for me.  I am really learning a new appreciation for life and all it has to offer. My patient is on hospice care, and she and her family deal with it every day with open minds and smiles on their faces. As young men and women, we often get caught up in our world perverted materialism and we love to complain about things we don’t have and things we want.  We often forget that life is really not as guaranteed as we would like to think. We forget to be appreciative of what we have been blessed with in life.  Being a hospice volunteer has really changed that for me. I’m a lot more thankful for my family, my health and all the blessings I do have in life.  And yes, I still complain about things I don’t have, but I do it a lot less now.  I really like being a hospice volunteer, and I will continue being one for as long as I can. I wish I could make more visits, because I know how much my visits mean to Miss J and her family. But the amount of time my school work and extracurricular activities eat up makes it difficult. In the future though, I will definitely try to make more time for my patient and be a more dedicated volunteer! 
Mariama Kalokoh, Hospice Volunteer
If you would like to join Mariama and be a part of our special team of hospice volunteers, please contact Andy Wichorek, Medi Hospice Volunteer Coordinator at 804-282-4301, or  Or, if you live outside of the Central Virginia area, please find and contact your local area hospice and learn how you can get involved today!