AVA eases burdens for hospice patients

Angela Hospice patient Joanne Savage relaxing at home.
When Angela Hospice launched its telehospice program last January, the staff knew there would be benefits for patients, like faster response times and being able to see a nurse’s friendly face when getting help with their concerns. But as the program has evolved, we’ve discovered even more ways this innovative program is making life easier for hospice patients.

Joanne Savage could tell you. Widowed six years ago, she’s raising three boys on her own. And she’s been fighting her own battle with cancer for 11 years. Now on Angela Hospice’s home care program, one of the highlights for Joanne is AVA (Angela’s Virtual Assist), the tablet device that allows Joanne to connect to telehospice services and video chat. 

“It makes a difference,” Joanne said, “Because I know that I can call anytime and someone will be there.”

Joanne was diagnosed with peritoneal carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, at the age of 40. She was actually in remission for four years, but there were also surgeries, three years of trying different types of chemo, then radiation, until eventually her doctors told her they had tried all they could.

In July she signed on with Angela Hospice. Thanks to her strong faith, Joanne seems to be at peace with what is in store for her, but she can’t help worrying about her sons.

“My time is ticking because there’s only so much they can do. And we just wait. And that’s really hard. Because I get that look from the boys every day. Is today the day? Are you gonna pass away today? It’s put a lot of stress on all of us,” Joanne said.

Her daily struggles would seem overwhelming to many people, but they’re made a little easier through the help of family, friends, and her support system at NorthRidge Church. Her Angela Hospice team is also a part of that supportive network, including AVA.

And when AVA asks Joanne on Thursdays about her weekend supplies, it’s one less thing she has to worry about.

“If I need any supplies or anything like that…I’ll just hit yes and within minutes after I said that, I have someone calling and ordering me what I need,” Joanne said. “It’s incredible.”

It might seem like a simple thing, but Joanne is someone who sees the silver lining. She has an inspiring outlook, despite all the challenges she faces.

One of the many beautiful portraits of Joanne's 
sons that hangs in her home. Colin, Jack, and 
Nolan are all teenagers now. She’s begun the 
process of saying goodbye, making sure they know 
how much she loves them, how they make her 
proud, and all the qualities she admires in them.
“You know I always tell my kids, I have a very strong faith in God, and God can turn any situation into a good one. And he did. Because I got in with Angela Hospice, and oh my gosh -- it’s wonderful….it couldn’t have been a better blessing,” Joanne said.

In addition to having the AVA device there, she’s been grateful for the help with her pain, the emotional support, and the volunteer who comes every Wednesday to help with housekeeping. Her sons are a big help too. She says they’re very supportive. They help out around the house too, and Nolan -- her youngest, just 13 years old -- is the family chef.

“They’re all great kids,” Joanne said. “I love them to death. And that’s why I fight so hard to be here.”

Her best friend Michelle has agreed to take care of the boys, but the difficult thing right now is for Joanne to think of leaving them.

“We just put our faith in God and know that God can do anything. And maybe it’s time for me, you know? I guess at the right time he’ll call me home and I’ll go,” Joanne said. “I’ll just miss the boys.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Ingrid Lasley

Name: Ingrid Lasley

How long have you been a volunteer?
I started volunteering about 2 ½ years ago.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I cover the receptionist desk for lunch hours, which includes telephone calls. I have covered Tree of Life shifts for the past 2 years and plan to volunteer again this season. I also have been involved in numerous mailings and last year’s Walk of Remembrance.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I stopped working a few years ago and decided I could use my spare time best by volunteering. I am enjoying every minute!

Why Angela Hospice?
Ingrid with fellow volunteer Geri Orlowski

My mother passed away in 2012 in Buffalo, NY, and after witnessing the treatment my mother received at a hospice facility there, I knew I wanted to be part of such a kind and caring group.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I have enjoyed meeting so many people who have demonstrated so many ways one can give. The employees and volunteers at Angela Hospice are truly special people, and I am honored and humbled to be part of such a great organization.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Working the receptionist desk for the lunch hour has allowed me to experience so many different aspects of how Angela Hospice operates. The most outstanding is the continued compassion of every employee and volunteer that I have come in contact with.

Freezing Fun Charity Run

Are you ready for a challenge? Then prepare to get chilly at the Freezing Fun Charity Run on December 16.

The Wolves and Hawks Soccer Club has chosen Angela Hospice and the Salvation Army as the beneficiaries of their warm-hearted, cold-weather run/walk taking place at Schoolcraft College. Choose from the 1.6-mile route or take on the full 5K!

The race will begin at 9 a.m. at the St. Joe’s Sports Dome at Schoolcraft College, then continue around the rest of the campus. Individuals can register for $22, or a family of 3 or more can register for $50 per family.

Online registration is available here

For questions, please contact Molly Midgley with the Wolves and Hawks Soccer Club at Midgley.poff@gmail.com.

Volunteer Spotlight: Marilyn Ling

Name:  Marilyn Ling

How long have you been a volunteer? Over 10 years

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I sing in the choir. We meet the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. We try to sing patriotic songs, and uplifting music for the patients and their friends and family that come to visit. I also spend time helping out with the mailings. In the past, I’ve helped out with the desserts at the volunteer dinner. I did that for a couple years.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Both my parents were in hospice care, and I just wanted to give back. My mom was in hospice around 25 years ago. Back then the whole concept of hospice was a little new, but our family really embraced it. I wanted to get involved and volunteer, and that lead me to Angela Hospice.

Why Angela Hospice?
I chose Angela Hospice because I am a resident of Livonia.

Marilyn Ling and fellow volunteer Kathryn Trudeau
singing in the Care Center as part of the
Angela Hospice choir.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I really enjoy the choir. People really like the music and sometimes patients and their families join in and sing with us. We will often ask the patients if they have a favorite song, and we will add that to our music book. Especially the men and women who have done military service, we will try and play their armed service song, and interact with them that way.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I also used to sell raffle tickets, in the summer time, for the Light Up a Life Gala. One day it had started to rain so we had decided to pack up and I looked over and there was a lady standing there. I asked her if there was anything I could help her with before we pack up. She asked what we were doing and I told her that we were with Angela Hospice and we were conducting a fundraiser. She went on to say that her son had just passed away this morning from throat cancer and that she just didn’t know what to do. So I gave her the number to our bereavement program so she could talk to somebody. I thought, now this is how you can really give back to the community and help people out. I think the main thing that people don’t always realize is that at Angela there is no charge for bereavement services or to talk to a social worker. Angela has so many amazing programs to help families get through these difficult times.  

Volunteer Harvey Fox pays I.T. forward

Even when you’ve been volunteering your whole adult life, you never quite know what will come next. Just ask Harvey Fox, who’s been an Angela Hospice volunteer since 2014, and has volunteered at other organizations for years as well. He went through Angela Hospice’s volunteer training thinking he would help by visiting with patients, or maybe working in maintenance or hospitality – but he ended up assisting in Information Technology.

Perhaps it’s not too surprising, considering Harv spent 28 years as a software developer, then another 16 years teaching computer classes. But he hadn’t imagined all the ways his I.T. skills would benefit Angela Hospice.

“I only work four or so hours a week in the office, but I see that my time has really helped in many concrete ways,” said Harv.

Harv has helped in multiple departments, developing user-friendly tools to help staff work more efficiently. And as much as the employees he helps are eager to express their gratitude to him, Harvey says it’s rewarding for him as well.

“It has truly been a blessing for me to tap into my IT skills and knowledge once again,” Harv said. In fact, he’s found that volunteering in general has always been rewarding for him.

“I must admit that as a dedicated volunteer, I have gained more than I have given,” Harv said. And one of those gifts changed his life forever.

“The most valuable gift I received from volunteering is meeting my wife when we were serving at Providence Hospital,” he said. The two celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in July.

Harvey Fox helps Angela Hospice with a variety of 

projects. He said, "I remember being overjoyed
someone actually offered me the opportunity 

to once 

apply my experience and knowledge
within the 
field of information technology 


good of the organization."
So what motivated Harv to choose Angela Hospice as the recipient of his time and talents?

“In a word…Mission! I believe that human life is the most precious thing on Earth,” Harv said. And this is something he sees reflected in the way Angela Hospice’s caring mission is enacted each day. He also appreciates the “family-like” atmosphere he sees in the organization.

“Working for Angela Hospice,” Harv said, “and being a member of such a loving ‘family,’ is not only a wonderful experience that brings me great joy, but a real energizer for my soul!”

In addition to Angela Hospice and Providence Hospital, Harv’s volunteer activities over the years have included projects for the Catholic Church, St. Vincent de Paul, and Schoolcraft College, among others.

“Volunteering has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had,” he said. “Volunteering is a way for me to give back to the community, in some small way, what others have done for me ‘in big ways’ during my lifetime. In fact, I plan on continuing to volunteer as long as I have good physical health and my mind can still function logically.”

And for all that time, Angela Hospice will be grateful for his service.