As a Heritage Hospice volunteer for 15 years, Martha Grigsby is accustomed to spending time with people who are seriously ill. Recently, the tables were turned for Grigsby as she faced her own health crisis.
The 67-year-old Danville woman has been battling breast cancer and recently completed 38 rounds of radiation.
Despite all the worries on her own mind, the day before Grigsby’s radiation treatments started, she called her hospice patient to check on her needs. Although Grigsby surely had many of her own loose ends to tie up, she went grocery shopping for the patient.
“I’m a person that doesn’t know when to sit down,” she says.
Her dedication to her volunteer role was one of the reasons Grigsby recently received the Kentucky Association of Hospice and Palliative Care’s Above and Beyond Award. A silver tray with horses engraved on it is displayed in the living room of her home. She was honored May 11 during a luncheon at the association’s state meeting at the Hilton in Lexington.
Wendy Hellard, director of volunteer services for Heritage Hospice, says Grigsby has a knack for knowing what to do and how to do it.
“I feel honored to work with Martha. She is dedicated to making a difference to her patients and family that she works with. There are people who give us confidence and direction. They help us to understand what’s important in life, and that person is Martha,” says Hellard, who notes that Grigsby is a familiar face to people who shop at Heritage Hospice’s annual Mother’s Day weekend plant sale.
Grigsby says after her bout with breast cancer she made sure the women in her family did not neglect their health. Her three sisters and two daughters all had their mammograms.
Her immediate family also includes a son and grandchildren, but through her work as a Heritage Hospice Inc. volunteer, her family has grown quite a bit.
“When you start seeing patients, you become part of their family,” says Grigsby, who was drawn to volunteer because her brother was one of the first Heritage Hospice patients.
Just as she dotes on family members, she likes to do small favors for her hospice family. Her three-hour weekly visits with the patients, allow their caregivers to leave the home and run some errands or even go to church.
“That’s the main part for people is to get away from the situation,” says Grigsby, who was an employee at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for 18 years before a back injury forced her to retire.
One of her special memories is of giving a colorful quilt to a 102-year-old man. When he received the quilt, it conjured up images from the man’s youth. He recalled that his mother always kept a quilting frame in the kitchen. Sometimes, he would get a needle and help “Mommy.”
Grigsby says she wanted to cry. “I told them, I came to help them, and I was the one who got the reward.”
Volunteers play a key role on the hospice team that provides end-of-life care to patients who have six months or less to live. Hellard schedules trainings twice a year, usually in March and September, but is offering some in-house training at other times for people anxious to volunteer. For more information, call her at (859) 236-2425.
Grigsby still is friends with the widow of the patient who received the quilt.
She visits her often, and Grigsby’s 14-year-old granddaughter, Summer Cook, likes to accompany her.
Grigsby has been instrumental in convincing three other people to volunteer. Maybe one day her granddaughter will be one of those people.