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Hospice Making it Possible for Marine Corps Veteran to Remain at Home

As Edward Hatch enlisted in the Marines in 1965, he asked a sergeant if he’d get to travel. He laughs as he remembers the sergeant’s response, “I guarantee it.” 

Ed was deployed to Vietnam. His tour of duty included fighting in the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War. Decades later, Ed and his wife Maureen are facing the aftermath of his service — exposure to the toxic chemical Agent Orange used by the United States military to clear foliage during the war.

Their ordeal began in 2001 when Ed was diagnosed with kidney cancer and his left kidney was removed. The cancer later spread to his lungs. Doctors thought the cancer was stable, but Ed began experiencing blurry vision and headaches in 2021. The cancer had spread again, this time to Ed’s brain and optic nerve. Surgery to remove the tumors was expected to last three hours, but took nine hours and left Ed hospitalized for 23 days.

Ed was finally able to return home with the support of VNA Care’s home health care team, who monitored his recovery. Fortunately, Julie Kelly, RN, was visiting when Ed passed out and stopped breathing. Ed’s condition later prompted Julie to speak with the Hatches about VNA Care’s hospice program, which could provide both of them with additional, specialized care and support to help Ed live as fully as possible during this difficult time.

Married for nearly 50 years, the Hatches’ goal is to keep Ed safe at home, and each member of VNA Care’s hospice team has been working to make that possible. Through a combination of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual support, their care promotes Ed’s dignity and quality of life and eases Maureen’s worries. VNA Care has achieved a four-star rating through the national We Honor Veterans program, an initiative led by the Department of Veterans Administration and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, to elevate end-of-lifecare for our country’s veterans and their families.

Hospice team members are frequent visitors and are only a text or phone call away if Ed and Maureen need assistance or have a question. Nancy Borgatti-Krouse, hospice RN case manager, serves as the Hatches’ primary nurse. Maureen said Nancy asks all the right questions as she assesses Ed’s wellbeing. When Nancy thought it was time to make a change to Ed’s medications, she worked with Dr. Joel Bauman, one of VNA Care’s hospice physicians, in consultation with Maureen.

“Nancy’s very thorough, and she cares about Ed, which means the world to me. She’s worked really hard to get the medicines right,” said Maureen. Dan Retelle, MPMIN, hospice spiritual counselor, brings communion to the Hatches weekly.

Dan has found ways to connect with Ed over football and history, and the two have talked about the Vietnam War.

Philip Wiafe, hospice aide, is a near daily presence at the Hatches’ home. He assists Ed with his personal care, including showering and dressing. Philip has become Ed’s confidant. Maureen said, “If Ed has something on his mind, he knows he can talk to Philip about it.”

Maureen receives a great deal of support during weekly visits from social worker Sarah Robinson Phillips, LCSW. “She’s an incredible listener. She gives me ideas about how I can cope with the stresses that I have… She sees this (Ed’s health) as an issue for both of us, not just for Ed. She spends a lot of time with me, and I really appreciate that.”

The Hatches are also incredibly grateful for the additional care and support they receive from Michelle Morfiris, LPN; Edoualda Chrispin- Lovaincy, RN; and Marc Reiss, hospice volunteer, retired nurse, and Coast Guard veteran.

Ed said, “They’ve done a wonderful job.” Maureen added, “They’re talented, they’re intelligent, and they’re compassionate. We’re really lucky.” Hospice is all about celebrating life, and the team turned Ed’s 80th birthday into a very special occasion. Maureen ordered a cake, but the team surprised the couple with balloons, ice cream, fresh strawberries, beautiful flowers, and “it’s my 80th birthday” sunglasses for Ed.

Maureen said, “It was just such a thoughtful and happy thing that they did. It couldn’t have been nicer.” Maureen shared, “This team makes it possible for Ed to be at home. The circumstances would be difficult wherever he would be, but it’s much better for him to be in his own home with somebody who loves him.”

Pictured above, left: Dan Retelle, MPMIN, with Ed and Maureen Hatch

Pictured above, right: Edward Hatch (seated) with (from left) Michelle Morfiris, LPN; Nancy Borgatti-Krouse, RN; his wife, Maureen Hatch; Philip Wiafe, hospice aide; and Marc Reiss, RN, hospice volunteer