Hospice of the North Coast’s “Mission Possible” Tells a Compelling Story
of Helping Terminally Ill Malawians Experience a Peaceful Death
Carlsbad, CA … An impoverished community in a landlocked country in Africa. An upscale coastal city in Southern California. The story of Hospice of the North Coast’s (HNC’s) Global Partnership (GP) with Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi spans more than 10,000 miles and two vastly different cultures connected by a strong, shared commitment to providing a peaceful end-of-life transition for terminally ill patients and their loved ones.
Entitled “Mission Possible,” the compelling saga unfolds in serial fashion at https://hospicenorthcoast.org/global-partnership-story. The story chronicles the Carlsbad nonprofit’s energetic efforts to respond to the need in poor, disease-rampant Malawi for improved access to professional, compassionate hospice and palliative care.
The GP, under the auspices of the Global Partners in Care program, was established in 2016 when the HNC team “met” the Nkhoma Hospital team via Skype and fundraising was initiated to support HNC’s provision of supplies, medications, technical assistance and other necessities.
HNC Executive Director Sharon Lutz reports,
“Thanks to the generosity of donors, we underwrote a three-year degree at Uganda University in hospice and palliative care for Nkhoma Hospital’s Assistant Medical Officer, Sam Kabota, MD, which he will complete later this year.”
In 2017, the partnership kicked into high gear with two exchanges leading to far-reaching impacts. In January, Lutz and three other HNC staff visited Malawi. A seasoned clinical nurse, Lutz notes, “We were able to make ‘small’ changes that reaped significant benefits. By making simple suggestions to adjust the timing of pain medications administered to a young mother suffering from terminal breast cancer, we enabled her to get a better night’s sleep and spend more time awake and alert with her children during the day. Ultimately, she was able to pass peacefully; well-palliated; with her loving family at her bedside.”
In October 2017, the Malawi team of Dr. Sam Kabota, Nurse Ellen Chizimba and Chaplain Leviticus Kefa journeyed to Carlsbad for a whirlwind educational experience. First, they met stakeholders at a Blessing of HNC’s Pacifica House, which had been newly reconfigured to better serve the needs of end-of life patients receiving symptom management care and their families. The three professionals spent nearly two weeks in medical trainings, addressing diseases that predominate in Malawi such as HIV/AIDs, liver disease and certain cancers. As they accompanied HNC caregivers to patient residences, the team learned basic preventive measures to help patients avoid needless pain.
Lutz emphasizes that education has been a two-way street: “We have learned much from Dr. Sam and his team about resiliency, ingenuity and perseverance in the face of challenges. As we move forward, we can problem-solve together. Their creativity in managing symptoms will be a learning experience for HNC that will benefit our staff, clients, families and the community at large.”
Nurse Ellen Chizimba agrees, saying, “Whether in Africa or America, our overarching goals intertwine: We want our patients to be able to die peacefully and with dignity.”
Currently, the two teams are engaging in collaborative processes such as conducting interdisciplinary meetings regarding patients via Skype. HNC is striving to increase awareness and raise funds. The money will enable HNC to pursue key endeavors such as supporting employment of a medical social worker to help families reconcile difficult situations within the family dynamic.
HNC offers many ways to get involved in the partnership. People can follow the GP story as it progresses, attend GP committee meetings, request a presentation for their group, make a donation and receive a thank-you gift of a unique tote bag or teddy bear hand-crafted from colorful Malawi fabrics or even lend expertise on HNC’s next trip to Malawi. Lutz declares, “We promise that your life will be forever changed!”
Nonprofit Hospice of the North Coast was established in 1980 to fill the need for comprehensive, compassionate hospice care in North County San Diego. Since its inception, it has grown in services that include global partner Nkhoma Palliative Care in Malawi, a resale store in Encinitas, Pathways Palliative Care, Hope Bereavement Center and Pacifica House, the only in-patient acute symptom management facility in North County. For more information, visit www.hospicenorthcoast.org #30