Letters to the Editor

Hospice dedicated to community

Today is Mercy Care Day.

Twenty-nine years ago, Mercy Care began serving Horry, Georgetown and Marion counties. Since then, we have remained your hometown, nonprofit hospice. We pioneered hospice services here in 1981 because we knew many of our friends, neighbors and church members needed help. It has been our honor and privilege to walk this part of life's journey with thousands of people.

Today, we are still the area's premier provider of quality care for those dealing with life-limiting illnesses, and we are fortunate to have the only certified hospice and palliative care physician in Horry County - Dr. Charles Sasser - serving as our medical director. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Mercy exists for those we serve; it's that simple.

Mercy has grown tremendously during the past three decades, adding and enhancing programs as we've seen first-hand where need exists. Donations from extremely generous community members have made this possible, and we are grateful to our many supporters.

Mercy's continued commitment to our community is not just our mission -- it's our passion. Here are some of the ways we help:

Two years ago we instituted a three-hour phone referral-to-visit timeline because Mercy Care understands what it is like to have to make that phone call. It means someone needs our help urgently. We're there for the family, too, providing social work, chaplain, volunteer and nurse's aid support.

Two years ago, we launched Mercy Honors as our way of saying "thank you" to our veterans through special pinning ceremonies and certificates of appreciation. For veterans in their final days, this special recognition helps to heal their hearts and ease their passing.

Our premier bereavement program helps people dealing with feelings about loss. We offer one-on-one support, grief support groups and a correspondence program where written material containing suggestions for coping with grief is mailed to family members of those who have lost a loved one. Mercy's dedicated, compassionate volunteers call frequently.

Another aspect of our bereavement support services is our Camp Happy Hearts, which is held twice a year to give children a great time while also offering them a chance to honor the memory of their loved one. They learn it's all right to grieve and even better to laugh. Camp Happy Hearts is part of our larger, robust children's program, which features specially trained counselors who work with the school systems to help identify children who are suffering through any type of loss - be it from a death, divorce, abandonment or remanding to foster care.

We have redesigned and reopened Palliative Care Partners, our Palliative Care consulting service. We provide physicians and nurse practitioners to people dealing with complex chronic illnesses that require expert pain and symptom management. This service allows the patient to pursue curative measures while receiving this additional help. For information, call Mercy Care and ask for Palliative Care Partners.

Our new Professional Center, at 8216 Devon Court in Myrtle Beach, features a specialty library. Dedicated to our first palliative care patient, Claire Chapin Epps, this library is devoted to the subjects of loss, grief and care for those with life-limiting illnesses.

Mercy's senior wellness program is about to expand our work with the Horry County Council on Aging. We are enhancing our partnership to broaden the availability of free blood pressure checks and educational programs to the Grand Strand's elderly population.

Our resale store, Treasures of the Heart, at 1227 16th Ave. in Conway, is another avenue to achieve our shared vision of providing the highest quality of care and services to anyone in our community in need.

We would like to say thank you to local donors, volunteers, churches, businesses, civic groups, fellow neighbors and friends. We would not be able to do what we do if it wasn't for your continued support for our mission. Please feel free to stop by our professional center. We'd love to show you what you make possible each and every day.

The writer is executive director and chief executive of Mercy Care.