Ohio’s Hospice will send another group of staff members to Ecuador to work with the Foundation to Assist Cancer Patients in Cuenca (FASEC). FASEC provides care for patients in their homes and has established a 20-bed inpatient unit attached to a local cancer hospital. They are pioneers in Ecuador for hospice and palliative care, and partners with Ohio’s Hospice in expanding services to those with life-limiting illnesses.
Staff members selected for the September outreach to Ecuador include Lisa Conn, a bereavement counselor with Pathways of Hope; Linda Quinlin, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, NP-C, ACHPN, a clinical team liaison with Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton; personal care specialist Cathy Gipson and Dr. Wendy Schmitz, who spearheads the program. Several previous participants have offered insights into what they might expect from their experience.
Personal Care Specialist Linda Burr and pharmacy services coordinator Jordan Gay both stepped outside of their comfort zones to take part in Ecuador excursions in 2017. Both were overwhelmed by the transparency and welcome they received from Ecuadorians. “They have no walls,” Linda said. “They welcome you as family from the first minute you meet,” according to Jordan. “They wear their hearts on their sleeve.”
Linda and Jordan stayed with host families and formed friendships that continued past their departure. When she arrived at her host home, Linda was concerned because she spoke no Spanish. Her hosts put her at ease and she found herself sharing time with their 7-year old son who collects U.S. quarters. “I had brought quarters with me and the next thing I knew we were sitting side-by-side sorting through them for his collection,” Linda recalled. “The language barrier disappeared.”
The clinical staff and family caregivers they interacted with and taught were extremely grateful and appreciative for their expertise. Staff members from Ohio’s Hospice offer multiple educational presentations over the course of their week in Ecuador. The experience, is NOT a vacation, says Jordan. “It involves a lot of work. The preparation of presentations in advance and then sharing them with groups eight to ten times over the course of the visit. But they note that everyone who attends – doctors, nurses and family caregivers – are so interested and grateful for what they had to share. “They are the pioneers of hospice in their country, just as there were hospice pioneers in ours 40 to 50 years ago,” Linda observed. “They care so much for their patients,” Jordan said. “They are so loving.”
The country offers beautiful, postcard-worthy vistas, a contrast of wealth and extreme poverty, and a culture centered on church and family. Linda and Jordan found the cuisine to their liking, raving about the availability and flavor of fresh fruits. There was only one experience that struck fear in the heart of both Linda and Jordan – the driving. “There are no stop signs or lights,” Linda explained. “There are roundabouts. It’s better to have a horn than brakes.” Drivers, said Jordan, appear to have only one rule – “to be first. Totally chaotic driving.”
Nevertheless, “I would highly recommend this experience to everyone,” shared Jordan. “Being in Ecuador makes you want to work twice as hard and love even harder.” Linda agreed and offered another benefit she gained from the experience. “Everyone who helped me prepare my presentations was so generous and helped me succeed. And I bonded with members of the hospice team I had never worked with before. I know I would love to go back.”