Out to the Ballgame
Robert and Silvia Charity had never heard of hospice or palliative care before he got sick with prostate cancer in 2007. Since then, Robert has learned firsthand how expert pain and symptom management can so impact quality of life that he has been able to fulfill a dream despite the pain and challenges of his serious illness.
Robert, a life-long baseball fan, had never actually been to a game and wanted so much to see his Washington Nationals play at the ballpark – but that was unthinkable because of his pain. That all changed once the Charitys were introduced to Capital Palliative Care Consultants by the staff at Washington Hospital Center, where Robert was being treated.
“It is critically important that all of the needs of our patients be addressed,” said Dr. Sandra Swain, medical director of the Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center. “We are committed to reducing the suffering and improving the quality of care of our patients.”
Robert arrived at the palliative care clinic in excruciating pain. “It was the worst day of my life,” he recalls. He thought he would never return home. He certainly didn’t expect that the physician, Dr. Hunter Groninger, would provide him with such effective and immediate relief that he “literally felt the pain leave my body,” he says. “Almost instantaneously, I felt like a new person.”
In addition to cancer, Robert’s debilitating arthritis made it hard for him to get around. Relieved of that pain, Robert has made trips to Chinatown, visited the National Zoo and went to see his niece in Sterling, Virginia.
Being active, in turn, lifted his spirits. He’s currently making plans to attend a family reunion.
When the cancer inevitably advanced, Dr. Groninger described to the Charitys a number of local hospice programs. “We didn’t hesitate for a minute,” says Silvia Charity. “We chose Capital Hospice because of the continuity of care and because we like Dr. Groninger who has continued to take care of my husband, along with a team of staff and volunteers who come to our home.”
“For someone like Mr. Charity who was diagnosed with a serious, progressive illness and was experiencing pain and other symptoms, palliative care is a major step because the immediate goal is to manage those symptoms. Once the pain is under control, they can focus on living,” says Robert’s Capital Hospice Social Worker, Carlene Costello. “When someone sees and experiences the benefits of a palliative care program, it is easier for them to accept hospice when the time comes.”