Wendy Schmitz, MD, HMD, FAAHPM, Earns Fellow Status from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Wendy Schmitz, MD, HMD, FAAHPM, of Dayton, Ohio, recently earned the designation Fellow of the…
Choosing Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton for a career held a special connection for Laura Etienne, RN care manager.
In January 2004, Laura’s mother-in-law, Marcia Etienne, was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer that spread to her pancreas. She was referred to hospice and became a patient at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.
Marcia was a loving mother of six and had the goal of seeing all of her children get married. At the time she was admitted to Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, five of the six had been married. Her youngest, Daniel, was engaged to Laura and planning a wedding the following summer.
“There was no rush. We knew we were going to get married and we’d been together since I was 14 years old and he was 16 years old,” Laura said. “But then there was a time crunch, and we moved up the date.”
The couple moved the wedding to that summer. But when Marcia’s prognosis got worse, the couple moved the date to the next month, then the next week, then the next day.
“It was Feb. 17, and I was at the salon getting my hair done in preparation for the following weekend when I got the call that the hospice care team didn’t think she would make it through the weekend and we should get there,” Laura said. “I had them wash out my hair right then and my husband and I went to get our marriage license immediately.”
Over the next 23 hours, the couple planned their wedding with the help of their friends, family and the staff at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. Ready with bridesmaid’s dresses and tuxedos from Value City and wedding bands from Kmart, the couple got married the following day, Feb. 18. There was no time for invitations — those who came showed up through word-of-mouth. The wedding was held in the Great Room at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. It turns out Daniel also had a connection to the organization. Through Daniel’s construction job, he later helped remodel the inpatient care unit in 2011.
“Some people may say that it’s special because many brides wouldn’t be willing to give up their day,” Laura said. “But to me it wasn’t giving up a day. It wasn’t about fancy things. It was about getting to have her there with us to celebrate. We knew we loved each other and her seeing us get married was the most important part of that day.”
The couple had Marcia’s favorite flowers — Crazy Daises, brightly colored daisies — at the ceremony and was able to share a piece of wedding cake with her.
Marcia lived another month, surrounded by her family, and passed on March 18, 2004. Laura said, “A light dimmed that day, but Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton was there for us.”
The Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton care team gave Marcia a memory bear, and even though she had two daughters and four sons there with her as well, she said she wanted Laura to have the bear.
“That bear is my pride and joy,” Laura said. “I have always said if anything happened to the house, after my family, I’d go back for the bear.”
Now, 15 years later, the compassionate staff of Ohio’s Hospice caught Laura’s attention again at the long-term care facilities and hospital she was working at.
“The employees are the best marketers. They’re so happy, and the stories they share are inspiring,” Laura said. “The staff here love their jobs, and I felt guilty for not loving my old job. I provided great care for my patients, but I kept thinking how I could provide care at somewhere special to me.”
Seeing the care that the Ohio’s Hospice team provided to Laura’s patients and having firsthand experience with her mother-in-law motivated Laura to make the move.
“My weakness is grief and loss, but what better way to use a weakness than to turn it into a strength through practice,” Laura said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the impact I can make on the lives of patients and families the way the staff did in caring for my mother-in-law.”