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Agrace HospiceCare News


Sips & Sounds Wine- and Beer-Tasting Event Benefits Patients Served by Agrace

JANESVILLE, Wis. – On Saturday, March 5, Agrace will host Sips & Sounds, a festive wine- and beer-tasting event that directly supports patients and families facing a serious or life-limiting illness. New this year is an expanded offering of beer samples to complement the event’s popular wine selections.

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Drive, Janesville. Advance tickets are on sale for a discounted price of $60 per person, and will be  $75 at the door. The ticket price includes samples of exquisite wines from Wisconsin and California wineries and distributors, samples of beer from Wisconsin-based distributors and breweries, delectable hors d’oeuvres provided by more than a dozen Janesville-area eateries, and live music from johnny can’t stop.

Sips & Sounds features a silent auction, an exciting raffle, a live auction and a wine pull. Guests can bid on an Epiphone Les Paul Studio Guitar with one month of lessons, a tour and breakfast at the Arndt Family Farm, a $1,000 room makeover from Flooring & More, lovely pieces of jewelry from Madelyn Co. and Dubes Jewelry, and much more!

To register in advance for Sips & Sounds, call Agrace at (608) 755-1871 or visit agrace.org/events by March 4. Guests are also welcome to pay at the door on March 5. Attendees must be at least 21 years of age.

Founded in 1978, Agrace is a nonprofit, community-supported hospice and palliative care agency dedicated to providing exceptional care and support to patients and families facing the challenges of serious illness. With offices in Madison, Janesville and Baraboo, Agrace serves nearly 700 patients every day throughout southern Wisconsin.

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New Option for End-of-Life Care Available in Richland Center

RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. – Beginning February 1, 2016, people in Richland Center will have a new, highly experienced choice for receiving hospice services and palliative care: Agrace. Agrace is a southern Wisconsin nonprofit health care agency that has provided end-of-life care and related services to people in Wisconsin communities for more than 35 years.

Agrace will offer four main services in and near Richland Center:

  • hospice care (in-home medical, emotional and spiritual “comfort” care for people in the last six months of life, plus support for their families),
  • palliative care consultations (specialized, in-home medical assessments for people who need better relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness while they continue treatment),
  • grief support, and
  • educational presentations related to advanced illness.  

Agrace decided to expand its services into Richland Center after receiving requests from area residents concerned about the lack of local access to the type of in-home end-of-life care that is readily available in many other areas of Wisconsin.

“The latest available Medicare data show there is a gap in the number of patients in Richland County who receive the compassionate, high-quality care that hospice provides, as compared with some other nearby counties,” said Lynne Myers, Agrace president and CEO. On average, only 24 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Richland County received hospice care in 2013 in the last six months of life, compared with 58 percent in Dane County that same year.

“At Agrace it is part of our mission to expand access to hospice and palliative care services in underserved communities, so we are extending our service area where we know there is a need for our care,” added Myers.

Agrace cares for people of all ages, including children, and honors the cultural and spiritual practices of all people. Community donations to the Agrace Foundation help ensure that Agrace can offer services to every eligible patient in this area, including those who are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance and cannot afford to pay for the care they need.

Agrace complements its professional hospice care with specially trained local volunteers, many of whom visit patients to provide companionship in their homes, in nursing or assisted living facilities, or at Agrace’s hospice inpatient units in Janesville and Madison. As it expands locally, Agrace is seeking interested volunteers in and near Richland Center. Call (608) 327-7163, or visit Agrace.org/volunteer for more information.

Agrace Outreach Liaison Karri Kelliher is available to help answer questions about Agrace in Richland Center. Karri can be reached at (608) 647-0078. For more information about Agrace, visit agrace.org.

Flyers Share the Ice with Special Young Fan

Posted by WPVI-TV Philadelphia, PA, by Alicia Vitarelli. Wednesday, November 11, 2015

VORHEES, N.J. — A very special boy had a very special wish come true on the ice.

[Agrace patient] 8-year-old Liam Idzi joined his favorite team, the Philadelphia Flyers, during Wednesday morning practice in Vorhees, New Jersey.

Idzi has severe cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. And even though he lives in Wisconsin, he roots for the Flyers - especially his favorite player, Jake Voracek.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation flew Liam and his family to the Flyers Skate Zone to make them all honorary Flyers for the day.

The team showed Liam and his three brothers around the rink, and even gave them signed jerseys.

Liam's mom, Elizabeth Idzi, says even though he can't smile, she knows he's just beaming inside.

She explains, "Liam spent at least 45 days in the hospital this year, and to be in a fun environment where he can do something he enjoys instead of in hospital having treatment and being sick, for other kids to be able to support Liam in doing something he can do, it's just wonderful family bonding. The whole community has come together."

Jake Voracek has also arranged for the family to attend Thursday night's game against the Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.

Voracek says he wants to win for Liam, joking that the little guy scored a goal Wednesday, and he hopes to match his record sooner than later this season.

Agrace Thanks Sauk County Community Partners

More than 100 people gathered at the Del-Bar in Lake Delton on January 14 to recognize the contributions of nine local leaders who have served on Agrace’s Sauk County Community Partnership Committee. The committee has played a key role in improving quality of life in Sauk County communities by connecting people to AgracAgrace Sauk DinnerPictured, left to right, (Top row): Kallie Schultz, UW-Baraboo Sauk County; Marcia Whittington, Agrace Chief Development Officer; Pastor Dave Hutchens, Walnut Hill Bible Church; Brett Topham, Johnson Bank. (Middle row): Gene Dalhoff, Madison Region Economic Partnership; Andrea Mauch, On Broadway Consulting; Jan Gruber, Agrace Clinical Team Manager; Susan Topham, Johnson Bank. (Bottom row): Lynne Myers, Agrace President & CEO; Missy Tracy, Ho-Chunk Gaming—Madison; Wendy Bill, Foremost Farms e’s services since the nonprofit hospice and palliative care agency began serving Sauk County in 2013.

“Over the past two years, many local citizens have supported Agrace’s expansion of hospice and palliative care services in Sauk County,” said Lynne Myers, Agrace president and CEO. “Because of these folks’ efforts, hundreds of people in the Sauk community have been able to receive Agrace’s support during a serious illness, care at the end-of-life, or comfort when they were struggling with grief.”

Agrace offers specialized pain and symptom management and other services to help improve patients’ comfort and reduce their stress during any stage of a serious illness. These services include palliative care consultations, hospice care and grief support, as well as educational services related to advanced illness.  

Community members honored at the reception include Wendy Bill, Foremost Farms; Gene Dalhoff, Madison Region Economic Partnership; Jenny Erickson, Sauk County UWEX; Carola Gaines, Unity Health Insurance; Dave Hutchens, Walnut Hill Bible Church; Andrea Mauch, On Broadway Consulting LLC; Kallie Schultz, UW-Baraboo Sauk County; Brett & Susan Topham, Johnson Bank; Missy Tracy, Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison.

“As a pastor, I appreciate the sensitivity of Agrace’s staff,” said Pastor Dave Hutchens. “They are not only good listeners, but they act, follow-up and seek clarity in a manner that takes care to meet the needs of both the patient and family members. When we look for hospice care, we want competent people who care. Agrace has been a blessing."

Agrace has provided end-of-life care and related services to patients and their families throughout southern Wisconsin since 1978. Agrace cares for people of all ages, including children, and honors the cultural and spiritual practices of all people. Community donations to the Agrace Foundation help ensure that Agrace can offer services to every eligible patient in Sauk County, including those who are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance and cannot afford to pay for the care they need.

Agrace complements its professional care with the service of specially trained volunteers, many of whom visit hospice patients in their homes, in nursing or assisted living centers, or at Agrace’s hospice inpatient units in Janesville and Madison. Agrace is in need of volunteers in Sauk County. Call (608) 327-7163, or visit Agrace.org/volunteer for more information.

Hospice, family help Jefferson couple renew wedding vows

Smith wedding vow renewalPosted in the Jefferson Daily Union, written by Pam Chickering Wilson

JEFFERSON — Tammy and Romaine Smith always wanted to renew their vows, but there never was enough money. Now it looked like there might not be enough time.

After many years of health problems and lengthy hospital stays, Tammy was told her lung cancer had metastasized and her Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease was advancing. There was nothing further doctors could do for her.

Thanks to the care workers with Agrace Hospice, she has been able to live at home for the past year in as much comfort as possible.

Meanwhile, the hospice and family members have stepped in to fulfill some of Tammy’s longtime dreams, including a renewal of their wedding vows, which took place in October at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Sullivan.

The Smiths always have resided in the Jefferson area, unknowingly “bouncing off” one another throughout their early lives before officially meeting on a blind date.

“My cousin set us up,” Romaine recalled. “I was dead set against it.”

“I was against it, too,” Tammy said. “I’d gone on a blind date before and it was a total flop, but I had nothing to do for the night, so I went along with it.”

It was nothing fancy — just an evening at Witt’s Bar in Sullivan, but the couple immediately hit it off. They saw each other for several nights straight and soon they were inseparable.

They married on April 26, 1986, when he was 26 and she was 25. They have lived in Jefferson ever since, raising two daughters.

“When we first came to Jefferson, we lived at 112 E. Milwaukee St. in an apartment above Luedtke’s,” Romaine said. “That whole section of the building is now gone.”

“The roof used to leak and I can remember water coming in even when it was below zero,” Tammy said.

“But we loved that apartment and its nice big rooms,” said daughter Sharon Garcia-Smith.

Tammy has held many jobs through the years, most recently working at Walmart. Before that, she worked in customer service at Generac and then Briggs and Stratton when it was purchased by that company.

“I was a certified technician for Briggs and Stratton, working with small engines, and for my job in customer service, I talked to people from all over the world,” Tammy said.

Romaine also held several jobs during the past few decades. He worked at Bradt Farms in Fort Atkinson for five years, then Derus Trucking in Fort Atkinson for three years. Then they had their own business, RTS Trucking, for four years.

He worked for Madison Truck Sales for 22 years and three months and recently moved to a new job with the Dane County Highway Department, driving plows and doing mechanical work.

The Smiths’ lives have been full of love and family, despite a long series of illnesses.

“I first got sick in 2002,” Tammy said. “We thought it was just the flu, but it turned out my lung collapsed. I’d lost 70 pounds in a few short months.”

When she finally got medical care, Tammy was diagnosed with collagenous colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. It was at that point the stress on her body came to a peak and she “popped a lung.”

She remained in Fort Memorial Hospital for months, but doctors were having trouble getting the lung to heal. Eventually, she was sent to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison for specialty surgery, having part of her upper lung removed.

She spent two-and-a-half weeks at St. Mary’s, only to have her lung collapse again six months later.

Shortly thereafter, doctors found a tumor in her head after she experienced a loss in the ability to smell or taste. She was referred to a neurologist and an MRI revealed a meningioma.

“They said it wasn’t cancerous and we didn’t have to do anything with it now, but at some point, it might have to be taken out,” Tammy recalled.

A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges — the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are benign.

That was good news, but shortly after that came the bad news — doctors had found cancer in her left lower lung.

Tammy underwent 35 days of radiation, emerging from that treatment in January of 2011.

“Everything seemed to be going well for a while, but then I started experiencing heart problems,” Tammy said. “I had atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat that causes poor blood flow to the body). They figured it was because of all the radiation I’d had.”

She also learned that she had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which progressively restricts people’s ability to breathe.

“I’d been having problems, little by little, losing air,” said Tammy, who’s now on oxygen to help her breathe.

Finally came the worst news of all: Her cancer was back and had metastasized to her bones. It could not be cut out. As this progressed, Tammy was experiencing a lot of pain, so bad it made her cry, so she went through more radiation to shrink the tumor to ease the pressure. It did shrink, but could not completely eradicate it.

“They zapped the heck out of it,” Romaine said.

Meanwhile, Tammy’s COPD was getting worse. Her diagnosis was terminal, and the emphasis shifted from a cure that was not to be to making her comfortable at home with family.

“The cancer will spread where it will spread, but I’d rather be here than spending all my time in a hospital,” Tammy said. “This is where I want to be. This is my home.”

Tammy said the Agrace care team is “awesome.

“I can’t say enough about the people who take care of me. You can tell they care in everything they do, and I love them all.”

Knowing the path she was on, family members started to take action to assure that some of Tammy’s dreams would be realized while she was still able to enjoy them.

“My husband and I had always wanted to renew our vows, but we never had the money to do it,” Tammy said.

“Our daughter (Sharon Garcia-Smith) decided to take the ball and run with it,” Romaine said.

With a lot of help from other relatives and friends, Garcia-Smith arranged for a modest renewal-of-vows ceremony at St. Mary’s in Sullivan and a reception afterward in the little hall behind the church.

Romaine’s sister, Chris Collins, helped to make the arrangements with the priest and hall, and everyone stepped in somehow to help with the food, flowers and decorations.

Meanwhile, Agrace Hospice used its “Wish Program” fund to purchase a new wedding dress for Tammy to make sure the big day was everything it should be.

“We have something called the Wish Program,” said Elizabeth Kopling, director of marketing and communication for Agrace. “Knowing that was her wish, we helped to make it happen.”

The bride wore her existing wedding band, a replacement for the original, which had been stolen.

“Krueger Jewelers made it up again just like it was,” Tammy said of the Fort Atkinson jewelry store.

Romaine presented her the new ring, in the old design but with a bigger diamond, for Christmas a few years ago.

“Mr. Krueger let me bring it home and put it on the tree before I even knew if we could pay for it,” Romaine said. “Tammy had always handled the money, so I had to check with her — and she said yes.”

“It was just beautiful,” she said.

The Smiths said that gesture of trust earned Krueger Jewelers a major purchase and their lifelong business.

The official renewal of vows took place on Oct. 24 of this year.

“I figured 10 to 15 people were going to show up,” Romaine said. “Boy was I surprised to see the crowd.”

“We had enough chairs set up for 150 and we had to set up more,” Garcia-Smith said. “We had probably close to 200 people there.”

“My brother from New York came out, my friend from way up North ...” Tammy said.

“What made it super-special was seeing all the family get together,” Romaine said.

Walking Tammy down the aisle were her father, James “Jim” Newkirk, and her young grandson, Romaine Garcia-Smith.

“At the reception, there was nonstop laughing, dancing and eating,” Tammy said.”I loved sitting and watching the kids, the third and fourth generations, dancing on the dance floor. It was so cute.”

Family members also recently worked together to fulfill another of Tammy’s wishes — to ride a horse again. A farm girl, she learned to ride when she was young and used to participate in rodeos.

Her daughter’s cousin, Jeremy “Kermie” Collins of Jefferson, helped set up the ride and everyone turned out.

“The most important gift in all of this was bringing the family together,” Romaine said. “Family is what it’s all about.”

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