Employee Spotlight: Penny Weeks

Name, title: Penny Weeks, Home Care Nurse

How long have you worked here?
Three years

What made you decide to work here? 
In my first year of nursing, I had a very young patient at the University of Michigan who had kidney failure and she was not a candidate for dialysis or transplant; she declined further life-prolonging treatments. A hospice consult was written, and the family wanted Angela! This patient was a patient of mine for weeks in the hospital and I became very close with them and their family.

The family kept in touch with me after she was discharged and transferred to the Care Center and when she died they called me. They had so many wonderful things to say about Angela Hospice and the staff, and the fact that Angela Hospice was Christ-centered care, and how comforting it was to have their nurse pray with them and be supportive of their faith. I knew then that someday I wanted to work for a company whose mission was Christ-like.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Angela Hospice has an awesome reputation in the hospital setting and my entire career was spent in the hospital.

What’s a typical day like for you? 
No day is typical as a hospice nurse. You have to be able to multi-task, keep multiple balls in the air, juggle your schedule, patient and families’ schedules, and be able to be very flexible.

Penny with fellow employees at the Light Up a Life Benefit. From 
left: Russ and Kelly Hardy, Penny and husband Mike Belcher.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
I work with the best of the best. They are genuine, caring, and loving people. They are selfless, honest, and with the utmost integrity.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
Sitting with a family while their mother was taking her last breaths and being able to provide comfort and emotional support for them. Making a difference.

Making Mom Proud

Maria Frade and her sisters at their parents’ 50th anniversary. From
left to right: Molly, Marilyn, mother Marilyn, father David, Monica,
and Maria.
Supporting Angela Hospice is about three things for Maria Frade: giving back, paying it forward, and honoring her mother’s legacy.

“She was loving, warm, giving, and a woman of strong principle,” said Maria. “And, oh how she loved her family.”

Maria lost her mother, Marilyn Frade, in 2014. She had been sick for the better part of a year before her doctors finally understood what was happening. What at first looked like Parkinson’s was ultimately diagnosed as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). It’s a very rare, fatal brain disease that affects one in a million people.

Maria, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, had come to visit her mother, who was being cared for in a nursing facility. Maria could see the disease was progressing rapidly. Her mom experienced hallucinations, progressive dementia, and other neurological symptoms.

“I remember leaving that building in the end of September on my mom’s birthday and in my gut I knew: I knew I wasn’t going to ever be able to talk to her again,” Maria said.

Her gut feeling was right. The next time Maria came to Michigan to visit, her mother was in a coma,
but she had also been transferred to the Angela Hospice Care Center.

“I really was in awe of the people who worked there who cared for my mother. The dignity they showed her, the love, the genuine concern and care. I was just in awe,” Maria said, holding back tears. “I got there Monday and I never left. I stayed there, I spent the night there. And everybody was just so respectful of my family, of my mother most importantly.”

A limestone brick on the Angela 
Hospice grounds was dedicated 
for Marilyn Frade by her family.
Her appreciation for the compassionate care her mother received at Angela is one of the reasons that Maria now makes monthly donations of support. And she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help others. It’s something her mother inspired her to do.

“It wasn’t until after my mother died that I realized how much my mother gave to charity. She gave to so many people! Even neighbors and people she didn’t even know…we found all these thank you cards my mother kept,” Maria said.

Maria said she sees Angela Hospice as a selfless organization – one that you don’t fully begin to appreciate it until you experience it with your own family member.

“I do not know how to concisely articulate a heart full of gratitude, so I am doing what my Catholic Christian faith asks me to do: give back and share,” Maria said. “I do want to help others receive the same wonderful services and care that my mother and family received from Angela Hospice during the most traumatic and devastating time in our lives. In doing so, I also hope to honor my mother and continue to make her proud of me from Heaven.”

We’re sure she is proud, and we’re grateful too.

"Winner Takes All" Raffle

If you haven't heard, we've got an excellent raffle going on right now. The drawing will take place June 12, 2017, at our Annual Golf Outing, but you don't have to be present to win. Of course if you are present, that's all the more fun!

Here are the details of the prize packages that will all go to one very lucky winner:

$500 Cash

$500 in Gift Cards

  • Panera Bread - $50
  • Twelve Oaks Mall - $150
  • Red Robin - $30
  • J. Alexander’s - $75
  • Visa Gift Card - $25
  • Speedway Gas - $100
  • Applebee’s - $30
  • McDonald’s - $20
  • Tim Horton’s - $20

Two tickets to each of these Angela Hospice events:

  • Walk of Remembrance, September 16, 2017
  • Light Up A Life Gala , October 27, 2017, at Laurel Manor 
  • Laughter Lifts You Up women’s comedy event, February 2018

Golf Packages:

  • Western Golf and Country Club Round of golf for four. Mutually agreed upon date.
  • Black Bear Golf Club Near Gaylord, MI. Round of golf for four. Cart fee is $10 per player, valid after 1 p.m.
  • Treetops Resort Near Gaylord, MI. Round of golf for four. Valid weekdays only, cart fee is $25.
  • Grand Traverse Resort and Spa Round of golf for four. Valid Sun. after noon, or Mon.-Thu. any time.

Detroit Getaway

  • Double Tree Hilton Downtown One night stay at the Downtown Detroit-Fort Shelby location, including complimentary valet parking for one vehicle. Advance reservations required, subject to availability.
  • Four Detroit Tigers Tickets Sunday, Aug. 13, 1 p.m. game vs. Minnesota Twins, lower level seats, Section 139, Row 18.

Only 500 tickets will be sold for this raffle, and all proceeds will benefit Angela Hospice's charitable program. To get your tickets for $25 each, call the Angela Hospice Development Office at (734) 464-7810 or visit our Care Center lobby between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays, or 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. Good luck!

Raffle License #R42145. 

Tiny, but fierce

Layla Simpson with her mom, Amanda, while 
Layla was a patient of Angela Hospice’s My 
donor-supported program helps children 
to receive expert care for terminal illnesses, 
while remaining in the comfort of home, with 
family and loved ones to support them.
by Dana Casadei

If Layla Simpson cries and it sounds different than usual, her mom, Amanda, wonders if Layla will be alive the next day.

“I know that sounds dramatic but it’s kind of where we are at,” Amanda said.

After you learn about Layla, who was born with a very rare birth defect called an encephalocele and is an Angela Hospice patient, it doesn’t sound so dramatic anymore.

The 20-week ultrasound is where the Simpsons’ emotional roller-coaster began. That ultrasound, also known as the anatomy scan, is where many parents often get the first glimpse of their child, and photos of their profile to take home. Amanda and her husband, Mike, were only given pictures of Layla’s feet.

“I remember telling my husband that I was kind of irritated that the ultrasound tech hadn’t been chattier,” Amanda said.

After the ultrasound they went to meet with their doctor, thinking it would be a regular follow-up. He told them he wanted Amanda to see a specialist and they were recommended to Google “encephalocele” to learn more about it. The doctor didn’t have any information packets on it. So once in the parking lot they immediately went to Google.

“If you do happen to look up her condition it’s all very terrible,” Amanda said. “It rocked our world.”

Soon after that ultrasound, Amanda called the specialist to make an appointment, but there weren’t any openings for three weeks. This would be one of the many moments where Amanda would fight for her baby.

While on the phone with the doctor’s office, Amanda told them she couldn’t wait three weeks to find out what was wrong with Layla. An appointment was made for the following day instead, and the many doctors’ appointments began.

“Every time I would have a doctor’s appointment I would be scared that they wouldn’t hear the heartbeat anymore,” Amanda said. “I never walked away from another doctor’s appointment feeling like, ‘Oh wow, that was really cool.’

“I don’t even know how we made it,” she continued.

Luckily, Amanda and Mike had each other, a strong support system, their faith, and a few really wonderful doctors, some better than others.

Dr. Nadia Tremonti
Amanda said the first doctor they saw basically told them not to expect anything good out of the pregnancy. They quickly switched to a different doctor at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, where they would meet Angela Hospice Pediatric Medical Director, Dr. Nadia Tremonti, who recommended Angela Hospice for Layla.

“Hospice is a very scary word for people who don’t know everything about it,” said Amanda, whose only previous hospice experience had been with her grandparents. She didn’t know anyone that used hospice as a service for a child.

Once at Children’s Hospital they met with three doctors and two OBs to go over all of her scans. This was where a plan for palliative care was put into place. At first, one of the doctors recommended she not have a C-section, but Amanda felt strongly about doing it because of how large Layla’s encephalocele was.

“I thought, ‘If she makes it to birth, why wouldn’t I take that extra step?’” Amanda said.

Amanda and Mike then had to make another hard decision: what did they want to do to prolong Layla’s life? Did they want her on machines? If so, how long? Amanda and Mike told the doctors they wanted to do whatever they could to help Layla breathe so they could say goodbye to her. The same doctor who didn’t want to do the C-section told them that could be traumatic for Layla, but Amanda and Mike stayed strong. When Layla was born she didn’t need any breathing machines or respirators; she came out kicking and screaming.

“I stayed strong and I’m so glad I did that because here we are,” Amanda said holding Layla, who at the time of our interview had just turned 12 weeks old and was making tons of noise. She also had on a pink shirt with a Shakespeare quote from A Midsummer’s Night Dream that couldn’t have been more appropriate: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Two days after Layla was born she had surgery to remove the encephalocele, which took quite a bit of Layla’s brain. Amanda said they don’t know what functions that part of her brain held but they knew that her stem, which controls her breathing and heartbeat, was still intact. For now, they wait to see what happens. Layla can eat from a bottle but will she be able to feed herself someday? Will she be able to chew? Or walk? They don’t know.

“She’s obviously a miracle and a big blessing to us, but that’s probably the hardest part: there’s no idea what’s going to happen,” said Amanda, a self-described “planner.” “We’re not completely out of the woods.”

Now they have an Angela Hospice nurse and social worker that come to the house, and Layla is re-evaluated every 90 days by her doctor. Amanda said they probably won’t be able to take her off hospice until she’s at least a year old.

“I don’t quite understand everything about it,” Amanda said. “I don’t really get how she can be doing so well but we still talk about her passing.”

That unknown is also why they didn’t have a baby shower. And why Layla doesn’t really have a nursery. They hadn’t put money away for a crib because they didn’t think Layla would make it this long, and they didn’t want to have a nursery without a baby. She sleeps in a swing they have set up in the front room and all of her clothes are in two plastic dressers. But for now, Amanda and Mike will take every day they have with her, and cherish every second of it.

“You hear this (kind of) news and think, ‘Why me?’” Amanda said. “Now that she’s here I know why us. Because we can handle it, even though sometimes it feels like we’re not going to be able to. It’s really hard, but she’s here and she’s a miracle.”

Since the time of this interview, Layla’s condition stabilized and she was able to sign off of hospice care. She’s now pursuing treatment under the care of her physician. 

While it is not uncommon for patients to see some improvement in their condition once they begin hospice care, in 2016, about 5-percent of Angela Hospice patients actually improved or stabilized enough that they “graduated” from hospice care are were no longer hospice appropriate.

As You Wish: Personalizing Advance Care Planning

Communication is a good thing. But what happens if you become unable to express your own wishes and beliefs? Making your end-of-life preferences known in advance can help ensure your wishes are heard even if your voice isn’t. And it’s simpler than you may think.

Join us for a free, three-part series. Through expert insight, you’ll learn what to consider, how to plan ahead and make your wishes known, and come away with a legal document you can share with your family and healthcare providers.

Presenters include the region's leading experts in ethics, senior care, home care, palliative care and hospice.

As You Wish: Personalizing Advance Care Planning
Wednesdays, April 26 through May 10
7 to 8:30 p.m.
At St. Mary Mercy Livonia
North Auditorium
36475 Five Mile Road, Livonia 48154
Register for this free series here
For more information, call (734) 655-8943.