March 12, 2018

Dear VITAS: “You Left Beautiful Footprints on my Heavy Heart”

Patient testimonials reaffirm the value of what VITAS employees do every day. Read Danielle Valentin’s letter of appreciation for the care provided by our Chicago Northwest hospice team for her late mother, Doris Preissner.

Doris and Donald PreissnerDear VITAS Staff,

I've probably written this letter a hundred times in my head, but it never seems to convey the deep gratitude that my family and I feel toward your staff.

What VITAS and your staff provide to your patients is something not all facilities have: compassion, love and humanity.

As you all know, we were with a different hospice provider for the first months of my mother's journey. I was frustrated and confused; I questioned the entire hospice process. Why? I felt that everything was left in my inexperienced hands to care for and tend to my mother.

Finally, I considered switching hospice providers. That’s when I called VITAS. The first person I spoke with was kind and professional. She wanted to understand what I was looking for—and what I wasn't getting from the other provider. I’ll admit it: I assumed VITAS would offer the same services as the other hospice provider.

I was so wrong!

Instantly, VITAS felt like part of our family

On our first meeting with VITAS, the nurse spent three hours evaluating my mom, talking with me and understanding my concerns. I was given more support in that three-hour visit than in the entire five months with the other group. Switching to VITAS right then and there was the best decision I ever made.

On the next visit, Admissions Nurse Regina Heatherly spent the afternoon and early evening discussing everything in detail with me. By the time she left, Regina felt like part of our family.

After those initial meetings, Dr. Diane Rapaport, senior medical director, and Sandra Jaffe, team manager, spent several hours talking with my mom, and then followed up with me. I was amazed. After five months with the previous hospice company, I didn’t even know the name of their doctor. With VITAS, Dr. Rapaport was in the same room, discussing everything and providing a full understanding of why and how things are done. Explanation was key, because it helped me understand the hospice process and how things work.

I was then blessed with regular visits from Nurse Case Manager Hilary Payton, Home Health Aide Shirley Lawrence, Chaplain Nicolle Grasse, Social Worker Catherine Dello and Music Therapist Bryn McCabe-Weiland.

What you did for me and my mom was such a blessing

I know there were times when Mom was in different states of mind and may have come off a tad snarky (I hope the situation wasn’t too bad!). You all just smiled and took care of her.

You will never know how grateful I am for endless help, support and miracles that you provided: a video camera, approved respite care that we ended up not using, extra visits when I called in, education for my caregiver about how to care for Mom, books with helpful information and music therapy with Bryn.

Keeping Mom comfortable was your primary focus, but you all helped me, too. I needed you as well. You took the stress off me, and your compassion and empathy were amazing.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Nicolle, our team chaplain. It was a rough day, and I was experiencing a bit of a meltdown. Nicolle just walked up to me, sat down, talked at length, understood the entire situation, provided words of wisdom to help me understand things from a different perspective … and then offered to do my grocery shopping.

I was simply amazed. No one in my family had ever offered to do that for me, yet here was a complete stranger willing to help me, having known me for only an hour. Right then and there I told Nicolle, “God knew I needed you, and that’s why he sent you to me and my mom.”

My mom would grin from ear to ear each time Nicolle visited. She played such a big part in our lives, even if only for a short time.

The VITAS difference is apparent

I know that the overall philosophy of hospice care is to keep the patient comfortable until the end of their journey. The VITAS difference is apparent in all the love, compassion and support that you provided to my family.

VITAS is unbelievable. You all became part of my life, and you left beautiful footprints on my heavy heart. I am eternally grateful to you all for the love and care you provided to my family, especially my mother. Much love and blessings to you all!



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