April 20, 2020
Hospice Volunteers Pat Teply and Chance Brighten Days During COVID-19
When Chance the Corgi walks into a patient’s room at Greater Regional Hospice Home there's a sense of comfort and relief that doesn't always come from a human visitor.
That's certainly been the case when Chance and EveryStep Hospice volunteer Pat Teply pop into Verl Wynn's room.
"It was clear he was a dog person," Pat notes. "Several times Chance would just get right up on the bed. Verl would sit there rubbing his head and Chance just sidles right up beside him and snuggles in."
However, the visits came to an end in mid-March when EveryStep revised its volunteer visitation policy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to protect the health of patients, families and staff, EveryStep Hospice temporarily suspended visits from volunteers and therapy animals, like Chance.
"How sad that we wouldn't be able to go visit," Pat says of her first thought after the change. "It's heartbreaking when they don't have that to look forward to."
While Pat understood why visits were changing, she knew she wanted to keep in touch with Verl and allow his relationship with Chance to continue.
That's when she began to think of Verl's room at Greater Regional Hospice Home. The walls are covered in poster boards that are themselves covered in photos of his family, friends and their animals.
"He's very proud of those pictures," Kathy Hays, Verl's daughter says. "There are five of us kids and each board has each family, then there's another with friends and people that took care of him."
It was only fitting that Chance's photo would make it on one of those boards.
"He always had to have a dog," Kathy recalls of her father. "Us kids, growing up, we always had dogs and cats, when mom and dad retired, they had a dog and cat. His last dog Trixie went everywhere with him."
Pat notes that during her last visit with Verl - which took place just hours before restrictions were put in place - he'd asked if his daughter could take a photo of Chance for the board. Unfortunately, the timing for the photo didn't work that day.
However, it wasn't too late for Chance's photo to bring Verl a bit of comfort, and Pat reached out to Kathy with the idea of sending photos of Chance to her that she could then show her dad when she visited him.
"I asked her if it wouldn't be a nuisance, I'd like to send Chance's photo to her every now and then so she could share it with him," Pat says. "She thought that was a grand idea. We started the next day by posing him on the bed with a white board that said 'I miss you.'"
The next day, Pat posed Chance covered in a afghan with the board reading "Sleeping In."
"The other day we went out near some rocks and I posed him on them and on the board wrote 'Rock Climbing" and sent that," Pat says.
The photos, Kathy says, brought comfort to Verl.
"It really helped him," Kathy says. "It gave him something to think about."
While Verl's health has declined in recent days and he wasn't able to see the last photo Pat sent, Kathy says Pat's gesture and sharing Chance with her father has been a comfort for their entire family.
"He's with us, but not with us," she says. "I texted Pat back and told her thank you for the photo. Dad isn't able to see it, but I sure appreciated it. It put a smile on my face. It's also helping the family."
And that's all Pat says she hopes for in sharing Chance with others: that he brings a bit of joy to their day.
"We'll get though this," Pay says of the suspended volunteer visits. "Chance does miss going to see his people; whenever I would say 'do you want to go see your people,' he's ready."
In the meantime, Pat says she'll continue reaching out to the patients she and Chance would normally visit by sending cards and letting them know she's thinking of them.