Diagnosis: Terminal Illness
Treatment: Palliative Care
For Patti Means and her family, the practice of palliative care offered much-needed respite as she managed a terminal diagnosis.
But it was an unspoken bond with Patti’s palliative care provider, EvergreenHealth’s Dr. Hope Wechkin, that made a lasting impact transcending her medical care.
BONDING OVER MUSIC
As an accomplished pianist, Patti used her passion for music to bring people joy and possessed a rare ability to make others shine as she performed alongside them. She immediately identified a kindred spirit in Dr. Wechkin, a fellow performer and classically trained composer, violinist and singer.
When Patti began to feel increasingly overwhelmed by the complexities of managing her illness, Dr. Wechkin was there to listen and tune in to her needs, offering emotional support while also coordinating the health system resources that would help Patti live more comfortably— much like the conductor of a symphony orchestra.
“I am always listening for the through line — what is the patient’s melody and what harmonies can we bring in to best support him or her?” Dr. Wechkin described.
“Hope was the conductor of our orchestra,” explained Maureen Hoffmann, Patti’s sister.
Dr. Wechkin’s advocacy came at a critical time for Patti. As a provider, she helped to address Patti’s immediate symptoms, and their friendship allowed for an honest dialogue on Patti’s feelings about her prognosis.
“Hope helped Patti play her own song,” Patti's husband Bruce remembered. "She tuned the medicine to the music in Patti's heart, and it was beautiful.”
Today, Patti’s legacy lives on through her music and a newly dedicated piano in her memory at Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett.
WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE?
Dr. Wechkin describes the practice of palliative care like a train station along the route of a long medical journey.
“Receiving a serious medical diagnosis can feel like you’re on a train that’s picking up steam, with no way off,” she explained.
“The practice of palliative care gives us the chance to stop and take inventory of where we are, to look at the map and make sure we’re on the right path together.”
It’s a description that helps many patients better understand palliative care and how its focus on symptom management and aligning care with a patient’s goals and values can help them cope with a serious illness.
The most distinguishing aspect of palliative care, according to Dr. Wechkin, is its ability to be customized to each individual’s needs.