Mountains and Moonlight |

Mountains and Moonlight

Together, with more than 70 years behind them as nurses, Patti Miely and Marcia Carlyle have seen many changes in the health-care field.

The two women were among a group of counselors, massage therapists, nurses and volunteers who were honored and recognized for their work at Roaring Fork Hospice, a nonprofit agency affiliated with Valley View Hospital that provides medical and supportive care for patients with terminal illness.

The annual Mountains and Moonlight benefit dinner was held at Exclamation Point restaurant on May 14.

“The whole death process has changed,” said Miely.

While people are getting treatment longer and chemotherapy prolongs life, when they exhaust all other treatment options they don’t have to die in hospital. “It’s in their home, it’s where the patient wants to be,” said Dee Morris, interim director at hospice.

While hospice care is available to anyone who lives in Eagle, Garfield or Pitkin counties, Miely worries that not enough people know about it. “We don’t turn anyone away,” Miely said.

She is saddened when she learns someone went through the death process without hospice which provides care, comfort and symptom control for the patient as well as help for

the patient’s family.

Carlyle has a theory about why some may choose not to use their services.

“A lot of people are afraid. It signifies giving in,” she said.

But as Carlyle has experienced, “It’s about living more than about death.”

And she would know.

“I almost died twice,” said Carlyle.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and after she realized chemotherapy had damaged her heart and she didn’t have the stamina to continue work as a critical-care nurse, she moved to hospice care.

But her own cancer experience helped her understand grief, loss and pain associated with illness. “I think you have to go through something like that and confront your own mortality to understand what a hospice patient goes through,” she said.

While Carlyle gives an interview, someone comes by, gives her a hug and proclaims all hospice workers are angels.

“Sometimes it’s hard; I’ve learned to take care of myself,” said Carlyle. “I have a wacky sense of humor.” Her lifeline is her faith, family and friends.

“Sometimes you have to pull away from it.”

But angels aren’t very good at that.

“They are always in my heart,” she said.

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