Last Mile Ride raises $54,000

‘Great’ ride supports ‘special’ cause: the Garden Room and end-of-life care

Last Mile Ride 2012

Cyclists leave for a 38.4 mile loop to Northfield and back as part of Saturday’s Last Mile Ride at Gifford Medical Center.

RANDOLPH – With blue skis overhead and temperatures in the 70s, 225 motorcyclists, 60 runners and 20 cyclists rolled into Gifford Medical Center Saturday for the seventh annual Last Mile Ride, together raising an estimated $54,000 for end-of-life care at the non-profit Randolph hospital.

It was the hospital’s most successful ride to date, attracting more participants than ever before, offering a 5K for the first time and raising the most in the ride’s already impressive history.

The event supports end-of-life and advanced illness care for Gifford patients.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Runner and cyclist David Palmer of Randolph brought along a friend, the family dog, for Saturday’s Last Mile Ride.

Gifford provides special care in a garden-side suite, the Garden Room, for patients at the end of life and to their grieving families. The ride was created by Gifford motorcycle rider and nurse Lynda McDermott to support the Garden Room and comfort services, such as massages for pain management; family photos by a local professional; music therapy; one-time gifts for special needs, such as a handicapped ramp at home or special wish; care packages; food for families staying with their loved ones in the Garden Room; bereavement mailers; help with Advance Directives; staff training; and more.

To a mostly leather-clad crowd standing before the reflective chrome of 162 motorcycles, hospital administrator Joe Woodin offered his thanks to the participants.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Motorcyclists leave for the seventh annual Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. The ride supports end-of-life care.

“Thank you for coming today. This is a great event,” Woodin said. “It’s been really lovely to have so much support and people’s involvement. Over the years we’ve had a lot of people take up the cause in memory of a friend who perhaps passed away or a loved one and it’s really nice for people to say ‘The experience we went through we’d love to help those in the future.’”

Dr. Cristine Maloney, an internal medicine and palliative care physician who participated in both the 5K and cyclist portion of Saturday’s ride, shared stories of patients who have benefited from the ride funds over the last year. “None of this is possible without your time and your commitment and your fund-raising. These improvements in symptoms as well as the time and space to let families let go more comfortably are because of you.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Bunny Huntley of Bethel waves from the back of Gail Osha of Randolph Center’s bike as the duo takes off Saturday as part of Gifford Medical Center’s Last Mile Ride.

“We appreciate your commitment to providing comfort at the end of life whether at the hospital or at home or in the nursing home here.”

Many spurred by their experiences in the Garden Room, nine participants raised more than $1,000 each for the cause. The top fundraising honor and associated prize – a Porter Music Box – went to Todd Winslow and Lu Beaudry of Wilder who alone raised $5,325 in memory of Winslow’s mother Joyce, who passed away in November in the Garden Room at age 82.

“When my mom went into the Garden Room … I decided that day – and I didn’t tell anyone – that I would figure out a way to raise money for it,” said Winslow, who later used e-mail to reach out to friends, family and business contacts. He wrote about the Garden Room and asked for help raising money in his mother’s name. “And I got an unbelievable response from all of them.”

Last Mile Ride 2012

Howard Stockwell of Randolph Center waves on the back of Mike Anderson’s bike as 225 riders return from the Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center.

“The Garden Room,” said Winslow, “you don’t know what it is like until you experience it. It is the neatest thing there is. Gifford has something, or the town has something, that most towns and hospitals don’t have. It’s really special.”

Winslow set a goal to raise $2,000, met it, raised it to $3,000, met that and continued on to $4,000 and then $5,000 goals, exceeding each.

“I really think it was because of my mom,” said Winslow of how he was able to raise so much. “One guy said ‘How can you not say ‘yes?’

“It was kind of neat to do it in tribute to my mom because my mom was really a neat person. She never had an ego. She was one of those people who wanted to help everyone and listen to them. So I wanted her to be recognized at that ride.”

Thanks to her son’s efforts, she was.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Ken Perry drives and Brenda Wright waves as riders return from the Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center. Perry and Wright live in Bethel.

Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield earned the second place prize, raising a remarkable $3,134. Chugkowski and Martin are long-time friends who participate each year in memory of several loved ones, including Martin’s dad, Robert Martin II, and this year former Northfield Saving Bank president Les Seaver.

“It’s a great ride for a great organization. We participate to ride and remember the loved ones that we’ve lost,” said Chugkowski, who works at Northfield Savings Bank and also serves on Gifford’s Board of Trustees.

Chip and Marie Milnor, who launched their fund-raising efforts on the Tuesday before the ride, collected $2,879 in just days in honor of their friend and Braintree neighbor John Rose Sr., who was in Gifford’s Garden Room as the ride was taking place.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Volunteers Penny Maxfield and Jamie Floyd, both Gifford Medical Center employees, help man the grill at Saturday’s Last Mile Ride, which concluded with a barbecue, live music from Jeanne & the Hi-Tops, and prize awards.

“I wanted to do something for the family. What do you do? And it hit me: I’m going to do something for the Last Mile Ride,” said Chip Milnor, who set a goal of $3,000 and reached it on the Monday after the ride as money was still coming in.

“People thought the world of John,” said Milnor, who lost his friend late Sunday afternoon. “Our neighborhood is definitely not going to be the same without him.”

For Milnor, the ride was about recognizing his friend and others the Garden Room will help, and participating in a great ride.

“It’s a well put-on ride. We do a lot of rides and that one is really well organized. They do a really good job. I can’t think of anything on that ride that needs improvement. It’s getting bigger and bigger, and I hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s for a good cause,” said Milnor. “It’s not about the hospital. It’s about the Garden Room and what they do for the family and how they take care of people.”

Last Mile Ride 2012

Jeanne & the Hi-Tops play at Saturday’s Last Mile Ride at Gifford Medical Center.

Also supporting the event were numerous business sponsors, prize donors, volunteers and individuals lining the motorcycle route.

Led by Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak with road guard services from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, this year’s motorcycle ride took participants on a 75-mile loop through central Vermont. Along the way, people held up signs reading “thank you” and naming loved ones lost. Some people were openly crying. Others cheered.

Riders waved and honked and later posted rave reviews on Facebook.

“Wonderful day, great ride with great people,” wrote Roxanne Benson. “Thank you to all of those who work so hard to pull this off every year. So glad $54,000 was earned for the Garden Room.”

“Thank you for a wonderful ride and a magnificent day! Already have the calendar marked for next year,” wrote Caryn Wallace from Connecticut.

“A great time this year! Next year cannot come soon enough! A big thank you for all involved with organizing and helping run LMR ’12 and for everyone who showed up to walk, run, pedal and ride,” wrote Brian Sargeant II.

Next year’s ride is slated for Aug. 17, 2013.

Photos by Janet Miller and Tammy Hooker

Health Focus: Understanding Palliative Care

‘It’s not a death sentence.’ It’s patient-centered care.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

With three outpatient palliative care physicians, Gifford Medical Center is already offering palliative care to outpatients early in their illness. To understand the discussion, however, you must understand the meaning of palliative care.

Gifford internal medicine provider Dr. Cristine Maloney of Randolph completed a year-long palliative medicine fellowship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. In the article below from Gifford, she explains the difference between palliative medicine and hospice medicine and why more of us may benefit from palliative care than we think.

One day last fall, David Wark of West Topsham awoke barely able to breath. “I thought I was going to die. I got up and I couldn’t catch my breath.”

Besides emergency care for a truck accident in the mid-’90s, the 58-year-old hadn’t been to a doctor in well over 20 years. But after that 2011 incident, and at the urging of his ex-wife and good friend, he called for an appointment.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

A construction worker, Wark was helping with the remodel of Randolph’s Cumberland Farms, so he called nearby Gifford Medical Center.

He got in right away, undergoing pulmonary function testing, X-rays and blood work and then sitting down with internal medicine physician Dr. Cristine Maloney.

“‘Don’t bull#@*# me. Just tell me the truth,’” Wark remembers telling the doctor.

The truth was worse than he expected. Wark, who had struggled with shortness of breath for years, suffered from tuberculosis as a child, experienced asbestos exposure and smoked since his teens, had late stage emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

He didn’t know it at the time, but the diagnosis meant Wark was now a palliative care patient.

“Palliative medicine is designed for anyone who has a serious illness,” says Dr. Maloney. She lists cancer, dementia, heart failure, COPD, liver disease, renal failure, stroke, cystic fibrosis, congenital malformations and extreme prematurity as examples. “It’s any illness that has the potential to shorten your life.”

For those patients, palliative medicine focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain and

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

the stress associated with having a serious illness. It involves listening to patients so their treatment is aligned with what is important to them. It works to enhance the patient’s, as well as their family’s or caregiver’s, quality of life through symptom management. And it includes an interdisciplinary team of caregivers helping to care for the patient’s diverse needs, not just treating his or her disease.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care.

Hospice medicine is subset of palliative medicine, but is for patients nearing the end of life. Medicare defines hospice care as for a patient who two doctors have determined has six months or less to live and who understands that care going forward will be palliative, not curative, Dr. Maloney explains. Most private insurers have similar definitions, although sometimes allow patients to pursue both symptom management and life prolonging treatments.

Palliative care is offered early and throughout an illness. It doesn’t mean foregoing curative treatments. And it doesn’t mean giving up your primary care provider to meet with a palliative care physician like Dr. Maloney.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Instead it is an extra layer of care, where a doctor spends time with patients to determine their wishes, help them understand their options and navigate the health care system, and answer their questions so they have better control over their disease and their care.

Long-time internal medicine physician Dr. Milt Fowler has referred patients to Dr. Maloney and Gifford’s other palliative care physicians. “My referrals to Dr. Maloney are to have her join forces with me in caring for patients with serious illnesses that would be helped by a team approach,” Dr. Fowler said.

“The palliative care specialty is young, but very useful. Patients who I have referred have felt our team approach has offered them more options and more availability. We have used this team approach both in office consults as well as with a number of home visits, which we often make together,” he said.

Research also backs what Gifford physicians have found anecdotally to be true.
“Many, many guidelines say this is the way to go. If you get patients onboard sooner, they do better,” Dr. Maloney says, citing studies from Massachusetts General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center that found cancer patients undergoing palliative care had a better quality of life and improved mood, and, in the case of the Mass General study of metastatic lung cancer patients, slightly longer lives with less aggressive care.

This type of care also often produces less confusion and conflict with family or friends about a patient’s treatment goals, says Dr. Maloney.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Over a longer appointment than the average doctor’s visit or over several appointments if the patient isn’t yet ready to discuss certain topics, Dr. Maloney determines a patient’s wishes by asking questions – without judgment – about treatment wishes; their home and financial resources, including family support and worries or concerns about their illness; their spiritual beliefs; if they want to know more about their prognosis; and their wishes should they be unable to speak for themselves.

“No one asks people what they want. They make the assumption they want the most care possible, which may not be the best care possible,” says Dr. Maloney, who often hears “I want to be home,” “I don’t want to travel to get treatment,” “I want to play with my grandkids” or even “I want to putter in my woodshed.”

Based on a patient’s wishes, Dr. Maloney then provides help achieving the patient’s goals to the best extent possible. That help might include referrals to a massage or music therapist, a visit with a chaplain or social worker, or help completing an Advance Directive and expressing wishes to family.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

In Wark’s case, Dr. Maloney prescribed breathing medications and recommended both that he quit smoking and participate in the medical center’s pulmonary rehabilitation program. He’s chosen not to pursue pulmonary rehabilitation yet, but has cut back on his smoking and says the medications have greatly improved his life.

“It’s a lifesaver. I can walk up my hill now,” says Wark, who is staying active with yard work and walking his Siberian husky dogs.

He knows “there’s going to come a time eventually that I’ll have to have oxygen.”

He’s OK with that. But he has also discussed that he doesn’t want the kind of aggressive care his own mother, for example, received for cancer. “I’d rather live a shorter life, but be more comfortable than receive very aggressive medications. I don’t like it. I don’t want it,” says Wark, who has signed a “do not resuscitate” order, which he’s shared with his ex-wife and keeps on his fridge.

And he remains upbeat about this illness.

“I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself,” says Wark, who should have years to live. “It’s not a death sentence. You just have to deal with it and let the doctor help you.”

In addition to Dr. Maloney, Gifford’s palliative care physicians who can help are Drs. David Pattison, an internal medicine provider and pediatrician, and Jonna Goulding, a family physician. All three palliative care physicians serve on Gifford’s multidisciplinary Advanced Illness Care Team, which aims to promote and provide patient-focused palliative and hospice care both in the outpatient and inpatient settings.