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Northside General

When I leave here, I’m floating on air.” Bruce Tizzard, volunteer. Northside General

“I think it’s a great honour,” Elizabeth Douglas says of volunteering with hospice palliative care. “I learn so much from the patients I meet; how to truly appreciate life every day.”

She’s one of the many volunteers at the Northside General Hospital. Their tasks include taking newspapers around to the patients, sitting with them, planning parties on special occasions and most of all, listening.

“They trust us,” explains Jim Jessome. A volunteer for eight years, he says he doesn’t go into patients’ room with a plan anymore. “People just need you to be there, just to talk, as sometimes they can’t do it with their own family.”

They sit and listen, and also assist in making the patient’s time fulfilled in whatever way they want. Whether it be a hamburger, a milkshake or a professional barbershop haircut. They also bring small stuffed animals and quilts to patients.

Douglas and Jessome sit with fellow volunteers Beverly Campbell and Bruce Tizzard.

They all share the same sense of gratitude in the essential work that they do.

“When I leave here, I’m floating on air,” says Tizzard. He says he enters a room and asks, ‘what brings you here?’ and then the conversation goes from there.

Tizzard, like others working in palliative care, says it’s time to change the negative connotation “I have people say to me, how can you do that, it’s so sad and depressing? But I tell them, it’s the best thing I have ever done in my life,” he says, his kind eyes sparkling.

Six years ago Beverly Campbell was retiring. She says meetings and fundraising didn’t interest her, but she wanted to do something. Then she saw an ad in the paper looking for volunteers in the hospice palliative care. “I didn’t even know what palliative care was,” she laughs. Now, a look of peace fills her happy face as she describes her time volunteering.

“The patients have a great faith – a human faith, so calm as they’re dying. The firm belief that there’s something better besides this, it’s inspiring,” says Beverly Campbell. “We love the patients,” says Jessome. “And we get more out of it than we give.”

They say it’s a privilege to do something for someone, especially at that time in their life. And that the entire experience, each and every day, is heart-warming and humbling.