20 years, 100 patients
Iowa River Hospice volunteer Fred Haynes reflects on service
Caring for those whose time on Earth is coming to a close is not always easy, but long-time Iowa River Hospice volunteer Fred Haynes said it’s given him great joy to help patients over the last two decades.
“For me, it doesn’t seem difficult; it gives me a good feeling when I can help a patient,” the 20-year hospice volunteer said.
This year is also special to Haynes because he’s now served 100 patients in his decades of volunteer work. He travels around Marshall County and the surrounding area to serve patients, and remembers the experience that got him interested in hospice care.
“I had a couple of sister-in-laws that got cancer in their 40s,” he said, adding they were taken into hospice care as a result. “I liked the way they were treated; I was still working, and when I retired, I thought that would be something I would like to fill my time with.”
Years before joining Iowa River Hospice in 1997, Haynes worked in a patient-oriented profession.
“I spent 30 years at the Wolfe Eye Clinic, I managed their contact lenses and made artificial eyes for them,” he said.
It didn’t take long after becoming a volunteer that Haynes was faced with the realities of the work. He said his very first patient asked him “What are you going to do for me?”
Haynes said the main job of hospice volunteers is to make people “as comfortable as possible” before they die.
“It just shocked me, being my first patient; I didn’t know exactly what to say,” he said.
After that first experience, Haynes said the job got easier. Even though his patients are faced with limited time, he said they still enjoy talking about life.
“When I first go, if there’s nothing that they want particularly, I just listen,” Haynes said, and with a smile added “Most of them want to talk to somebody … and 99 percent of the time, when I go, I take food.”
When he meets a patient, Haynes said he’ll often ask them about food they haven’t had a chance to taste in a while. Along with running errands and helping out however possible, he said he often listens to patients’ stories, memories and feelings.
“Some like to talk about death, and want to know what’s expected in some aspects,” he said. “Most of them want to talk about their life: their kids, their family, what they wish they could’ve or should’ve done.”
Haynes said it can be difficult to tell if he’s made a strong connection with some patients after working with them. Often, his patients show him just how much he means to them.
“People that you weren’t sure how you connected with send beautiful … beautiful ‘thank yous,'” he said, holding back tears as he recalled recent cards he had been sent by patients.
Another heart-wrenching, but happy, memory Haynes shared was of a patient who, after not wanting to talk much to other people, opened up to him about past regrets.
“One was that he did not have more time to treat his friends and neighbors and people kind, like I treated him,” he said.
When he knows a patient is getting close to passing on, Haynes said he makes extra visits to check on how they’re doing, talk and be there if they need him.
Caring for 100 hospice patients over 20 years has caused Haynes to change the way he thinks about death.
“I’m not afraid to die … I’m more relaxed with the idea that I’m going to leave this world,” he said, adding that wouldn’t have been true 15 years ago.
He said he wants to continue traveling with his wife and spending time with his children and grandchildren living in Kansas and Texas, and that he wants to keep volunteering at the hospice.
To celebrate his time as a volunteer, a Halloween-themed party is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Iowa River Hospice, 502 Plaza Heights Rd. To RSVP, contact Kay Iverson at (641) 753-7704 or email@example.com.
Haynes said he appreciates the recognition.
“I’d never thought that I’d ever have 100 patients and counting,” he said, smiling. “I know I can’t do another 100, but if I could do one more that would be great.”
Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org