Hospice: compassionate care when you need it most


Compassionate care when you need it most

By Karen Vander Sanden, Linn County LIVING WELL Magazine

Mark Nuehring had the collector’s bug and an eye for detail. He amassed an impressive array of toy farm implements as well as classic albums and 45 rpm records. All were meticulously catalogued and handled with loving care. That’s the way he was.

Unfortunately, Mark’s hobbies and other passions in life were overshadowed when his strength and attention became focused on fighting three separate bouts of lymphoma, beginning in 2001, when he was 59 years old. The cancer was first discovered in one of Mark’s testicles and, over the course of 10 years, spread to his neck and brain. In 2010, a new chemotherapy regimen produced encouraging results, and Mark and his wife Marilyn were hopeful it had licked the lymphoma. But near the end of that year an MRI showed the cancer was back – this time with a vengeance.

“At our last doctor’s appointment Dr. Kutteh asked how we were getting along and if we’d like some help,” says Marilyn. “It was getting tough for us at that point, so Dr. Kutteh set up a meeting with Mercy Hospice and Palliative Care. We got a call the next day.”

The Neuhrings were offered the care and support of Hospice of Mercy on whatever level they chose. Their options included in-home hospice care or Mark could be treated in an inpatient setting at the nearby Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy, the first and only hospice house in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor.

“Mark chose in-home care,” says Marilyn, “He knew it would help me out because I’d been doing most everything for his care up to that point.”

Once the decision was made, Marilyn says the Hospice of Mercy team sprang into action. She was amazed at how the team of caregivers expertly met Mark’s needs, and had the experience and foresight to anticipate what he would need next.

“They were just fabulous. They were the kindest, gentlest people and also very uplifting,” notes Marilyn. “It was such a big help to have them bathe Mark. They were wonderful.”

The Hospice of Mercy team is always prepared to provide care and support on a number of levels, meeting the needs of each patient and family on an individual basis. Director Tammy Buseman says a common misconception is that hospice care is focused on dying.

“Hospice care is designed to ensure that each person’s final days are lived with joy and meaning,” says Buseman. “We have a wonderful interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, occupational therapists, music and massage therapists, dietitians, bereavement counselors  and specially trained volunteers who each play a part in meeting patients’ needs as they make their journey.”

Buseman says the Neuhrings embraced the opportunity to make Mark’s final days meaningful and filled with joy.

“They understood the realities, but they made the most of the time they had,” she says. “They told lots of stories and shared lots of laughter. Of course, there were also tears but the family allowed their sense of humor to be there. They just really lived those last days fully. It was a powerful thing to witness.”

Mark Neuhring passed away on March 18, 2011, his family by his side.

Marilyn still finds comfort and encouragement from Hospice of Mercy by attending a monthly bereavement support group at the Hospice House, in Hiawatha.

“Hospice didn’t end for me with the end of Mark’s life,” notes Marilyn. “They came into our home and our lives, and they ended up in our hearts. They were there for me and they still are.”

To learn more about Hospice of Mercy, visit www.mercycare.org or call 319-398-6496.