The Gift of Hospice

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The Dick Savard Story

Dick Savard of South St. Paul was diagnosed with cancer in early 2019. After chemotherapy, radiation and with no possibility of a cure, Dick made the decision to stop treatment, and enter hospice.

Dick was a machinist and proud union member, strong in his convictions and proud to stand up and strike for what he believed was right. His daughters, Lisa Dunham and Chrissy Antikainen say he approached cancer the same way, all with a positive “the glass is half full” attitude. “Dad wasn’t afraid to die,” said Lisa. “But he didn’t like having to be taken care of and he didn’t like being sick from chemo, so he did what he wanted to do, live life and not feel sick.”

Knowing Dick was a blessing to Our Lady of Peace staff because we were chosen to give him the gift of hospice, in his home. Some may think it crass to call hospice a gift, but those of us who guide our patients through it know that it’s about making time for life. Dick understood that death is the first thing people think of when they hear the word hospice, but in his final months, he lived life to the fullest. He played cards, raced Go-Karts, traveled to Norfolk, VA to see his sister, and took the trip of a lifetime.

It was a visit to the world’s first nuclear powered submarine that brought closure on a life well lived. Machinery Repairman Petty Officer Third Class Dick Savard repaired this vessel while serving in the Navy in 1964, just before the Vietnam War. Daughter Chrissy recalls the experience: “We had always talked about going back to see the USS Nautilus, but never did it. When the cancer came, I realized that we had to make the trip because I knew how much it meant to him. I was just afraid that once he got back on the sub, he would see it as taking his final step.”

People often don’t realize that they can travel during hospice, if they feel up to it. At Our Lady of Peace, we call it “Travel Hospice,” and It’s possible with the medical support, provided by our staff, as needed. Our goal is to meet the needs of our patients and their families to the best of our abilities. Many times, those needs go beyond a room, a chair, and a bed to people, places, and activities that feed the soul. We’re dedicated to caring for the body and the soul.

Soon after Dick’s trip to the USS Nautilus, as Chrissy predicted, her father passed away, holding on to her and her sister, right after talking to their brother, Eddie, on the phone. Lisa said, “I think that’s how he wanted to go, surrounded by his family. After Dad talked to Eddie, Chrissy and I told him it was okay for him to go, and he did.”

Dick with his hospice nurse Cathy

Before Dick died, his caregivers asked him about his time in community hospice. He said, “I’ve done more in the past six months than I’ve done in the past 10 years. It’s been absolutely fantastic.” Dick’s daughters are grateful that their dad’s final months were filled with things that made him happy. “He was so beyond happy with Our Lady of Peace and that he was able to do the things he loved,” said Lisa. “He was also grateful for his OLP hospice nurse, Cathy. Dad lived and died by Cathy’s words and direction to the point that If instructions didn’t come from her, he wasn’t going to follow them. He heard her voice when she came in the door and it gave him the energy to get up and greet her.”

Chrissy and Lisa said they didn’t know that hospice is something you do while you’re still very much alive. “When we were told we had choices and options besides my dad lying in a bed, it changed everything,” Lisa said. “And seeing him so happy made losing him less difficult.”  

The people of Our Lady of Peace proudly put heart into everything we do, as we provide care for patients in our hospice residence, community hospice, and homecare. Caring for Dick Savard was a privilege and he gave us all a gift, by teaching us how to live.  

Watch for Dick Savard’s story in an upcoming issue of The Journey, a publication of Our Lady of Peace Hospice.

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