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Caregiver Shares Her Big Hospice Heart

Ray Weigand had planned on attending the Strike at Cancer Foundation fundraiser that his family planned in Chicago in March 2012, but he was there in spirit to honor someone special to him. Ray had never thought of himself as dying since his September 2011 admission onto hospice services; he signed the paper work and insisted he would never be the “typical patient.”

Kelly Huffman, RN burst into the lives of the Weigand family one Sunday evening. She understood Ray right from the beginning and made him and his family feel as though they were her only patient case. Kelly took to his flirtatious ways and met him head on, matching him jab for jab and sarcasm with sarcasm.  She repeatedly reminded Ray, with their shared sarcasm, that it would make her look bad if he fell just one more time.

Kelly has been a nurse for eight years, with five of those years in hospice. Her colleagues say that if you spend a few minutes with Kelly, you can see that hospice is where she belongs. Previously working as a health care consultant, she went back to school to complete her nursing degree because she longed to go back to hands-on patient care.   Her big smile and even bigger eyes instantly give a sense of reassurance, comfort and a genuine sense of compassion.  The majority of Kelly’s patients are often done battling cancer and have transitioned to the last months and weeks of their lives but Kelly never focuses on that. Instead, she empowers patients to remain in control, insists that they be treated with dignity, and comforts them with compassion and a gentle touch every step of the way. 

Kelly gave Ray so much in the short time that she knew him, but you would have thought by the way they were connected that they were life-long friends. People would walk into Ray’s room, and with his look of disappointment, he would say, “Oh, I thought you were Kelly.”

The family could not have made it without Kelly during the last week of Ray’s life. She insisted on comfort and took control of the situation when she knew Ray’s family just couldn’t do it anymore. Kelly rode with him in the ambulance to the inpatient hospice unit to ensure he would make the trip and be comfortable during the ride. Seasons Hospice’s Director of Supportive Care, Melody Stried (Ray’s daughter) believed Kelly did that because they had worked together and had grown to be friends. Fortunately, it wasn’t that. This is what Kelly does for every patient and family she touches.

Kelly Huffman, RN was presented with the Caregiver of the Year award at the fundraiser Ray had planned to attend, for her outstanding service and commitment to her patients and families. Ray passed away on Seasons Hospice’s services on January 27, 2012.

For more information on Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care services, please call (800) 570-8809

Huffman and her award, a championship belt with patient Ray's photo on the back.