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10 Years of Providing Hope, Strength and Courage



When Rogna Hewitt, 95, was admitted to Sanford Health she decided against surgery, instead she expressed her preference for hospital treatment with an emphasis on comfort and pain control. After two days in the hospital she was transferred to the Palliative Care Unit of Sanford’s South University Campus.

“Within only a few hours of admission, it became obvious that this was a very special unit,” said Roxanne Haggerty, Hewitt’s daughter. “The doctors and nurses understood the importance of listening and took time to explain the options.”

The Palliative Care team explained Hewitt’s options, choices and helped her family create two evolving care plans to guide her treatment. Plan A involved reassuring Rogna that her pain would be controlled and provide comfort if she were approaching the end of life, while plan B included goals to help in recovery and steps to work toward independent living.

The Palliative Care Service helps the patient and their loved ones cope with life-limiting conditions by providing intensive symptom management and focusing on quality of life. The care received depends upon the patient’s goals – reducing pain or treating side effects, providing understanding of the illness and allowing open communication with family, doctors and nurses explains Roberta Young, vice president of Cancer and Medical Services at Sanford Health.

“They are a fabulous crew, they showed compassion and concern and relieved my pain and worrying,” said Hewitt. After spending 1 ½ weeks in Palliative Care, Hewitt was transferred to a transitional care unit, where she is now working toward independent living in her apartment.

This past October marked the 10-year anniversary of the eight-bed Palliative Care Unit, which cared for nearly 410 patients in 2013. The Palliative Care Service also provides patients with the care of seven board-certified palliative care physicians, three board-certified palliative care consult nurses and specially-trained chaplains, social workers, psychologists and others.

After a massive stroke, Karen Robinson’s mother was brought to palliative care. “Mom was in the best place during her final days – she was kept comfortable and was cared for with dignity and respect,” said Robinson. “The palliative care team also made me feel at peace, I have no regrets.”

“The relaxing atmosphere and tremendous service in the Palliative Care unit is a direct result of philanthropy,” said Thomas O’Keefe, director of Inpatient Oncology and Palliative Care Service. “Massage therapists, equipment and all the extra things we do to make our patients and their families comfortable are available because of donations to the Sanford Health Foundation.”

The unit was originally opened and remodeled with funding from 61for61, an annual fundraising event hosted by the Sanford Health Foundation and 107.9 The FOX. Throughout the years, 61for61 has shared the inspiring stories of patients and their families who have relied on the therapeutic atmosphere and special services of the Palliative Care Unit during their most challenging times. Philanthropy plays a vital role in the development of this unit, as it continues to offer more services, expands to fit patients’ needs and works toward certifications.

Gifts to a Sanford Health Foundation fund enhance care throughout Sanford Health. For more information or to make a gift, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org or call (701) 234-6246.

Posted Date: February 2014

10 Years of Providing Hope, Strength and Courage

Sanford Palliative Care Service helps our patients and their loved ones cope with life-limiting conditions. Learn how donors to Palliative Care make a difference.