Two sisters who volunteer to Sinai Hospital's Home Hospice Program find great rewards by supporting the bereaved and being good listeners.
Malka Shavrick, head nurse at Sinai Hospital's 23-bed med-surgical unit, is also a volunteer, making bereavement calls to survivors of hospice patients. Her sister, Esther Macklin, a retired direct marketing manager, volunteers one day each week in Sinai's emergency room, where she acts as a liaison between patients, their families and the hospital staff. She also visits hospice patients to perform home care, which gives primary care-givers time off. And she visits families at the funeral home to comfort and assure them that support is ongoing.
Sinai Hospital opened in 1866 on Monument and Ann streets anin 1959 moved to its present location at 2401 Belvedere Ave.
The 467-bed hospital offers a full range of hospital services, including a trauma center and rehabilitation facilities, along with the Home Hospice Program, which provides terminally ill patients and their families with support in conjunction with the patient's own physician.
Under the program, a Sinai nurse is on call 24 hours a day. In addition, home health aides, social workers, volunteers and physical, occupational and speech therapists are available and are supervised by a medical director. Anyone terminally ill is accepted under the program, provided the patients live within the Sinai service area -- northwest Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Most people, says Mrs. Shavrick, "don't realize how complex the survivors' needs are. After a death, friends and family members are drained by the experience, but they go on with their lives, sometimes not wanting to talk more about the death. Yet, the immediate survivor, such as wife or husband, is still living with birth and death dates," she adds, "and so many more close memories."
The survivors need to be heard, Mrs. Shavrick explains, "to verbalize feelings and grief" to a supportive, objective listener. Mrs. Shavrick received her nursing degree from the University of Maryland and is a Sinai nursing graduate who has worked there since 1974. She and her husband Gerald, director of Project Ezra, which offers health and safety courses in the Jewish community, have two children. Their son Noah is a rabbi and their daughter Ann lives in Israel.
Esther Macklin speaks about the ongoing need for hospice volunteers and the number of people who do not understand serving the terminally ill and their families.
''People will ask me if it isn't just too depressing," she says, "and I have to tell them it is one of the most rewarding and uplifting things I do. To support someone who needs you, letting them know you are there because you care, making them comfortable -- there is no reward like it,'' says Mrs. Macklin, whose husband Stuart is an architect (their son and daughter, twins named Dee-Dee and Garron, are in their first year of college in New York).
The sisters say their commitment to hospice work came about as a result of the death of their father, a rabbi who died
of cancer at a young age.
"We lived in West Virginia," says Mrs. Shavrick, "and when my father knew he was dying, he moved his family to Baltimore where we would find a large, supportive Jewish community and where a good Jewish education was available for his children.''
''He died after many weeks in a hospital. There wasn't a hospice program for him and we wished for that,'' says Mrs. Macklin.
On March 29, a Sinai Hospice Memorial service will be held between 2 and 4 p.m. in the hospital's Zamoiski auditorium. The service is for those patients in the program who died in 1991. Families and guests are welcome.
If you would like more information about the hospice program, or would like to volunteer, call Janet Ward, hospice volunteer coordinator, at 578-5600.
For other volunteer opportunities at Sinai Hospital, call the coordinator of patient and volunteer services, Sara Lee Jacobson, 578-5023.