Employee Spotlight: Matt Kozlo

Name, title: Matt Kozlo, Purchasing Coordinator

How long have you worked here?
Four years in April.

What made you decide to work here?
I worked prior for a DME vendor in purchasing and Angela Hospice was one of the accounts. When I heard about the opening at Angela Hospice, I not only wanted to expand my experience to the other side of the finance spectrum, but I also wanted to be a part of such a great organization.

It has been the best decision I have ever made. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work for Angela Hospice and to be a part of the company’s growth to be a great provider to those in need of hospice services.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Through my old employer and fellow associates that also came over to work for Angela Hospice.

What’s a typical day like for you?
That’s the best part about my job: I don’t have a typical day. I try to stick with a routine of certain tasks to complete each day of the week but since my job deals with different patients with different needs, each day is not the same. I am constantly looking at new products for situations, concerns, and needs that come up with our patients.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
The people. Everyone brings something different to the table and do it with a great sense of passion.

Matt with his son Griffin and volunteer Pat Millen
at the Walk of Remembrance.
What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
Volunteering at the Walk of Remembrance. Every year since I started with Angela Hospice, my son Griffin and I have helped out with the gift shop. It’s not only great to be part of a great event we put together for our patient’s families, but it also is so rewarding to be able to share this experience with my son.




Employee Spotlight: Grace Washington

Name, title: Grace Washington, Home Care Hospice Aide

How long have you worked here?
Almost 16 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I was working at another company where I was doing a similar thing but it wasn’t hospice. I was going through the newspaper and I saw it. The HR woman at the time had me come in, put the application in, and she hired me.

I just love being in the medical field.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Through an ad in the Southfield Eccentric newspaper.

What’s a typical day like for you?
In home care there isn’t one. (laughs) It always changes, every day, it’s never the same. Call-ins or from the patients that we see or you get a call to go somewhere else…there’s not a typical day for a hospice aide.

You want everything to go well but when you knock on that door you never know what you’re going to get. Before you even get a “hello” they have all this stuff going on that they want addressed right then before you even walk in. Sometimes it’s not the patients, sometimes it’s the family member who is overwhelmed because their loved one is suffering.

Grace with volunteer Bernadette O'Neill, whose mom
was a patient of Grace's.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
My favorite part is seeing the patients, being there for the patients, and just seeing my co-workers.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There are so many patient stories. Like 10 years ago there was one patient who was really sweet and we just had a great time with her. Just her being who she was made us feel good about who we were. And just being there for her when she was declining, she still wanted us there in the room with her.

You can’t really say a favorite…I’ve had a lot of good times with a lot of patients.

Carrie's Story

Sometimes the unimaginable happens.

As a single mom, 44-year-old Carrie was used to a life of struggles, yet she seemed to get through them all with an inner strength. Call it perseverance – or maybe stubbornness – but Carrie did not give up easily. 

Carrie worked hard to provide for her daughter. She was independent, but devoted herself to taking care of others. Maybe that’s why it was easy for her to overlook her own needs. So a seemingly harmless wound on her leg felt like a minor issue, not something she needed to get checked right away. What she never would have guessed is how that one decision would change her life forever.

On October 28, 2015, Carrie went to bed fatigued, with a fever and chills, hoping to sleep off what she thought was the flu. But she was about to begin a traumatic journey. 

Awaking in a delusion, without a sense of place or time, Carrie was rushed to the hospital. She would be flown to the nearest trauma center for emergency surgery. Hours later, while she was comatose on advanced life support, her surgeons would give her family the diagnosis: necrotizing fasciitis. It’s a rare and terrifying disease caused by a deadly bacteria that can attack even the smallest of wounds. It had invaded the wound on her leg, spreading toxins throughout her body. Her organs were failing, and she had little chance of surviving. 

That’s when Carrie’s family experienced their first miracle: Carrie survived.

After two weeks on life support, Carrie woke up to a world that would be forever different for her. Her body had changed due to surgery and disease, and she was looking at months, if not years, of treatments. It would be difficult and it would mean time away from her daughter. Fighter Carrie took on the challenge – but it would be more painful than she could ever have imagined.   

She would undergo ten more surgeries, countless trips back and forth between hospitals, wound care clinics, nursing homes, and a two-day stay in her own home where she was without crucial medical support. After months in this cycle of medical chaos, Carrie had deteriorated mentally and physically. She couldn’t get out of bed. She had wounds all over her body, and the treatments were so excruciatingly painful, she couldn’t take it anymore. Depression and disease had crushed her once vibrant spirit. 

When the doctors told Carrie’s father, Forrest, that her infection had become resistant to antibiotics, that her body was shutting down, he asked to call Angela Hospice, because of the care his wife Diane’s mother had received. The family met with the admissions team, and Carrie was transferred to the Angela Hospice Care Center.

Sisters Kim, Carrie, and Denise circa 1975.
“Do you know how important Angela Hospice is?” asked Carrie’s sister Kim. “It was like a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I don’t think anyone really understood the amount of pain she was in until she was at Angela Hospice,” Kim said. “This is the only place that I saw her peaceful for the last three weeks of her life, where she wasn’t in constant pain and constant emotional distress.”

At the Care Center, Carrie was transformed. For the first time in months, she was being treated like a person – not a disease. With her pain under control after so much suffering, she began to smile again – that smile that could light up a room. She was even cracking jokes. Carrie was coming back. 

Her family was able to spend time with the real Carrie, the strong-willed person who had emerged after spending months crushed by pain and hopelessness. Now they saw her getting the care she needed – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And it was making a difference.

“The team helped her restore her dignity,” Forrest said.

During those three weeks, the bond between Carrie and her family was unbreakable. They cherished the time they got with her.

“I think she was just happy that we were here, because it was the one thing she asked of us: to stay,” said Carrie’s sister Denise. 

With the closure that came from healing mentally, and spiritually, and after coming to peace with her condition, Carrie died on August 25, 2016. As for her family, they were grateful that Carrie was able to face the end of life on her own terms and in her own way: with dignity and respect. Now they hope her story will help others. 

“It was a 10-month journey that was something none of us ever believed we’d ever take,” said Kim. “But what mattered the most and what I want people to understand is the miracles that happened here. We wanted the miracle for Carrie to survive, but sometimes the miracle you want and the miracle you get are two different things. So the miracle we got instead was the one we never knew we really needed – and that was the miracle of what happened at Angela Hospice. 

Carrie with her father, Forrest.
“Three of the biggest miracles were they gave us the time no one ever said we had; it gave us Carrie back; and it gave her back her dignity, which was huge for her.”

Carrie was able to spend her final weeks in the Care Center through her Medicaid coverage. Carrie qualified for Medicaid after an injury permanently prevented her from doing the job she had been so dedicated to, working as a direct care manager at a facility for the developmentally disabled. 

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program for low-income individuals, is a godsend for people like Carrie. But the Medicaid funding that Angela Hospice receives only covers a fraction of the actual cost of caring for patients like Carrie. The funding is very limited too. In fact, by March Angela Hospice will already have used all of its Medicaid funding for the year – funds that won’t be replenished for another seven months. With the rising number of Medicaid patients reaching out to Angela Hospice for care, Angela Hospice will only be able to care for Medicaid patients in the Care Center through the donor-driven Good Samaritan Program.

We need your help now to bridge the Medicaid funding gap. Please help us continue to care for all those who need us. Your gift can make a miracle for someone like Carrie.

Volunteer Spotlight: Elaine Kokko

Name: Elaine Kokko

How long have you been a volunteer?
Four years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Bereavement, memorials, the Holiday Children’s Workshop, makes salads for weekly Caregiver Suppers, development, mailings, and annual events.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
One of my good friends is a nurse on B-wing in the Care Center and I wanted to give back.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The people that I work with, that I volunteer with. The social workers in the Bereavement Department are really wonderful. When you walk into Angela Hospice it’s just a wonderful place to be.

Elaine (center) at last year's Volunteer Appreciation dinner.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Oh gosh, they are all favorite moments. (laughs) There isn’t really a favorite moment…just the fact that I’m so honored to be able to wear the badge. 

Employee Spotlight: Bernadine Hillman

Name, title: Bernadine Hillman, Home Care Aide/CHPNA

How long have you worked here?
Over 12 years.

What made you decide to work here?
When I was working for a home care agency that was located in Livonia they had assigned me a patient that had dementia, and she was on hospice, and she passed. I didn’t realize how emotionally attached I had become to her until her daughter told me she was dying…so that’s when I decided ok, I think that’s my calling; to get into hospice. And I’m glad I did.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Through a CNA program that I was taking at the time, they had listed some different agencies that were hiring.

Bernadine has worked at Angela Hospice for over 12 years.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I go to my first visit, where I’m welcomed by the family, or the patient if they stay alone. Then I get them prepared for their personal care, setting out what I would need to give them a bath or assist them in the shower. Then I move on to my next patient and basically the same thing happens all over again until the end of the day.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Making the patients and their families happy.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There was one particular couple -- they were in their nineties and had been married over 70 years -- and the gentleman was on hospice. He had some type of ailment that caused him to hemorrhage, which he couldn’t control and couldn’t stop. So when that time came his wife knew and he already knew it wasn’t going to be long before he passed. When he started hemorrhaging, the nurse was there to slow down the bleeding by applying pressure. He told his wife, “I love you.” That was so touching because he knew that he didn’t have too much longer.