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‘No one dies alone:’ Hospital initiative helps to comfort patients in final moments

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 4:53 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With the harsh reality that not everyone admitted to the hospital will go home, 40 volunteers at Ascension Via Christi, all of which are employees of the hospital, are making sure that no one dies alone.

“The thought of being that alone bothers me, that somebody doesn’t have somebody there, whether it’s a touch, it’s a voice, it’s something. That just seems wrong,” said Kent Koehler, Regional Technology Director for Ascension and a volunteer with the group, “No One Dies Alone at Ascension Via Christi.”

Koehler, a soon-to-be grandfather, experienced firsthand being hospitalized from a stroke, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t have family visit me and that was a wakeup call,” he said. “I ended up being fine, but if I had been at near-death or dying, and not being able to have someone, that would be so tough.”

Ascension Via Christi social worker Sarah Smart and her supervisor started the “No One Dies Alone” initiative at the hospital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ascension has had about 300 COVID-19 deaths.

“It’s really difficult to watch somebody take their last breath, whether it’s COVID or any other illness,” Smart said. “But just being able to be there and give them dignity and respect is very important. So, I’m glad that we were able to do that.”

In the last year, the initiative has ensured that 40 patients did not die alone. A majority of those patients suffered from COVID-19, and are individuals who may be homeless or have no immediate family nearby.

“At the end of life, hearing is the last thing to go,” Smart said. “So, you know, holding their hand, letting them know, ‘I am here, I am with you, you are not alone,’ just a lot of reassurance for the patients.”

Coming up on KWCH 12 Eyewitness News at 5pm, hear more from this staff member and volunteer at Ascension Via Christi.

Posted by Lily Wu - KWCH on Thursday, September 23, 2021

These are similar experiences that Koehler has shared with patients.

“God gave me gifts to use. This is an opportunity to use some of them,” he said.

Koehler said he hopes to see more colleagues volunteer in the effort.

“As I look at our mission and values, it tells me I’m at least contributing a small part to that,” he said.

Wesley Medical Center also has a “No One Dies Alone” program with volunteers.

Currently, all volunteers at Ascension Via Christi’s “No One Dies Alone” initiative are employees of the hospital. They plan to expand this program in the near future for community volunteers.

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