The experience of illness can be something like weathering a storm. You can see the front coming and, sometimes, even feel the impending change. Once the storm arrives, you shelter, trying to outlast the devastation. Afterward, you slowly emerge, take stock, fix the damage and move forward again.
Most times, we make it through the storm battered, but not broken. Recovery may take a few days, or a few weeks. But for those with a serious, chronic, life-limiting condition, recovery may not be possible. When this is the case, help can be found in the form of King’s Daughters Palliative Care Program.
The program provides hope and comfort to patients and families faced with chronic conditions such as COPD, heart failure, renal failure and liver disease. The goal of palliative care is manage symptoms, reduce
hospitalization, provide comfort and ease the burden of serious illness.
Palliative care isn’t hospice, said Shannon Runnels, palliative care nurse practitioner at King’s Daughters. “All hospice is palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice.” The distinction is important: Hospice patients are no longer seeking aggressive, curative treatment. Palliative care patients may be.
“Many people hear palliative care and think cancer,” Runnels said. “But cancer patients comprise only about a third of the patients I see.”
The Palliative Care team can assist with complex medical decisions, such as whether to continue curative treatment or to focus elsewhere. The primary goals of palliative care are to:
• Keep acutely ill or terminal patients as comfortable as possible
• Keep patients as pain free as possible
• Help patients and their families make the best possible medical decisions
“In palliative care, we provide hope for what can be, despite all that cannot be. We achieve this by communicating clearly and directly with patients, families, caregivers and physicians. We ensure that both patient and family know what the prognosis is; exactly what it means; and
the steps that are available to them,” Runnels said.
“What we know about serious, chronic conditions is that they get worse. As these conditions worsen, patients and families are faced with decisions that they may not have anticipated,” Runnels said.
“When my family faced a devastating situation, my husband and son were in denial and didn’t want any help,” said Joy Tackett, whose son, Joe, received care through the program in 2014.
“Yet Shannon persisted and later in my son’s illness all came to appreciate the compassion and comfort she brought to our family. Shannon was my rock,” Tackett said.
The Palliative Care Program at King’s Daughters provides care for inpatients under the supervision of hospitalist Sam Adams, M.D. Registered nurse Annie Steele rounds out the inpatient program. An outpatient program, under the direction of Phil Fioret, M.D., is being developed, Runnels noted.
Runnels earned her master of science in nursing from Walden University and her bachelors
at Minot State University.
She is accredited through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
She can be reached by calling (606) 408-1643. Patients are accepted into the palliative
care program by physician referral only.
“If we can change the life of one person or improve their quality of life, we’ve achieved our purpose,” Runnels said.