For Decades These Caregivers Helped Patients, Families Through Illness And Death When the Rev. Noel Hickie and Marcia Hilton began working in hospice care, neither was sure they were cut out for the job. But they realized they could help families process grief and make things OK.

For Decades These Caregivers Helped Patients, Families Through Illness And Death

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It's Friday, which means it's time for StoryCorps - the conversation today between two people who spent decades sitting with families during their most trying moments. Father Noel Hickie was working as a hospital chaplain when he met Marcia Hilton, a bereavement counselor, at a hospital in Eugene, Ore. They often worked together on hospice teams, helping patients and families through illness and death. They did this for 25 years. But as they remembered at StoryCorps, when they first started, neither was sure they were cut out for the work.

NOEL HICKIE: I thought that I would never want to be around sick people, anything to do with death.

MARCIA HILTON: I had that same feeling in the beginning. I had never been in a hospital environment before. I had never seen blood hanging on an IV pole. Just the hubbub of a hospital was really frightening to me. And I can remember thinking, what am I doing here?

HICKIE: I remember years ago, when one of the nurses asked me to go out and talk to a patient, I said, what am I supposed to talk to them about? She said, well, maybe, you know, they're so afraid - if you could take her fear away. And I said, you know, if I could do that, I wouldn't be working here. I would be the richest man in the world.

HILTON: I think probably the most terrifying experience I had was within my first six months of work. I was called down to intensive care because there'd been a gunshot wound to a young man that was fatal. And it was his best friend who had accidentally shot him. And I remember, getting on that elevator, my knees were just knocking. I walk into this room, where the family's gathered, and there must have been 25 people in there. The mother was in the corner, rocking back and forth and moaning and siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, the young man who had shot his friend.

And I remember sitting there having absolutely no idea what I had to offer. I must have sat there for a half an hour. And finally, I said, I didn't know Jim. Could you tell me about him? And a whole conversation started around the room of people sharing reminiscences about this young man. And it was just a miraculous transformation, what happened in that room. I was OK. They were OK. They would be OK. And I think that was a part of when things happened for me in my realization that maybe I could do this work.


INSKEEP: Marcia Hilton and Father Noel Hickie in Springfield, Ore. - Marcia retired in 2013 and Father Noel in 2015. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.


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