A story from the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care’s Early Days
Written by Debra Czegledi
My first encounter with PAC (Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care) was in 1995, and I was deeply moved and impressed with the compassionate, non-judgmental and unconditional caring, help and support they provided to so many of my clients who were dealing with such a devastating disease as HIV/AIDS.
It was during a nursing team meeting with my St. Elizabeth colleagues that I initially heard about PAC in a Hospital News ad. We were brainstorming, trying to find resources for our many AIDS clients in downtown Toronto. The AIDS landscape in the 90s was quite different than it is today. Homecare was providing extensive nursing care; however, many clients needed support beyond that to cope with daily life.
The first client I referred, Larry (name changed) was a very gentle and kind person who was suffering from CMV, which leads to blindness. Although he was receiving two IV infusions daily to control the progression, he was still losing his eyesight. He received news that he had to go to the hospital biweekly for eye injections to save what sight he had left. He needed help with transportation and a guided escort to the appointments. Homecare did not provide assistance with this. He had very few resources – living on disability pension. Most of his friends were sick or had already died. His family lived very far away and could not provide any support.
We then contacted Philip Aziz Centre for support, and were enormously relieved when we met the intake coordinator, Diane. She was kind, funny, non-judgmental and very reassuring. PAC matched Larry with two volunteers, a retired married couple who took him under wing. Not only did they drive and escort him to his appointments, they also helped him out when they got him home. He felt they treated him like family by doing the extra little things; providing some personal care, setting up a meal, and making sure, that he settled back at home comfortably.
I started referring many of my clients, and found that everyone at PAC – the volunteers and staff – demonstrated the care and compassion that so many of these clients needed at home. Acceptance, kindness, humour, caring – they made such a difference in so many lives by bringing back the humanity and tenderness that challenged so many during this pandemic.
One time, I referred a client, Bernard (name changed) who was termed ‘difficult’ by many providers. He was very angry. He was a young man in his 20s and clearly had lived a very difficult and traumatic life. Many nurses and PSWs would not see him due to his temperament. He was extremely frail and lived 24/7 on his sofa. Once again, no friends. He only had his Mom who lived in the US. I referred him to PAC to provide support around his meals, grocery shopping, and companionship. He missed his Mom and he was craving one of his favourite of her recipes: cinnamon toast. I will never forget walking in one morning and seeing Rauni on her third attempt at his Mom’s cinnamon toast! He was hollering at her and she kept cooking and smiling. It did not matter if it was right or not. What mattered was that someone cared enough to try.
In the end, and most importantly, PAC also helped to get him to a place to actually trust community agencies, so that he had the support he needed at the end of his life.
Note: 2023 is a “Time to Celebrate” 30/10 – thirty years of the Philip Aziz Centre for a Hospice Care (PAC), and ten years of Emily’s House children’s hospice. We hope you enjoy the varied historic stories, articles and videos being published on our website to mark this milestone occasion.