The Last Chapter: Portraits
Laura, Rusty and Gabrielle Liberatore
45-year-old Laura Liberatore is a mom to 8-year-old Gabrielle and has been married to her husband, Rusty Liberatore, since 2000. She has lived with a congenital heart defect all her life – when she was born – doctors told her parents she wouldn’t live to be a teenager. In August 2008 – she went into congestive heart failure. Doctors told her husband to take her to a Pittsburgh hospice. Laura was there for 6 weeks – but surprised everyone once again when she recovered – and went home. She has been looking forward to her daughter’s First Holy Communion.
Gal “Rusty” Stinner & Robert Stinner
88 year old Rusty Stinner attempted to join the air force 8 times after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. A punctured ear drum kept him out all 8 times. He married his wife, Grace on January 5, 1942. They were together 64 years until she passed away, on their wedding anniversary, in 2006. The owner and operator of S & S Auto in West Mifflin for 40 years until he retired in 1988 – Rusty was also the treasurer of the Thompson Run Athletic Club for 51 years. When Rusty was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 – he told his doctor he did not want any treatment – choosing instead to seek hospice care while remaining at home. His son Robert visits him several times a week – and looks to the hospice care providers for direction and support.
Dr. Bob Arnold
Dr. Bob Arnold is the director of Palliative Care at UPMC. Dr. Arnold's research and educational activities focus on teaching ethics to residents, improving doctor-patient communication regarding palliative care, and changing the culture by developing educational programs in specialities ranging from oncology to critical care medicine.
Shawn and Tina O’Donnell
Shawn and Tina O’Donnell have been together since their Duquesne University days in the early 90’s. They are the proud parents of 4 children – Nathan, Alex, Brayden and Mia. In 2010 – Shawn was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer. He is continuing to wage an aggressive battle – receiving chemotherapy from a Pittsburgh cancer center and also receiving palliative care from a local hospice. He has also been working on a legacy project – creating videos for his kids with instructions on everything from how to treat a girl (for the boys) .. how to expect to be treated by a boy (for Mia) .. how to blow up a ball with an at-home pump and how to parallel park a car.
Paula Church is the Quality of Life Program Coordinator at Family Hospice & Palliative Care. She works with patients and families to create video, audio or still photography legacy projects – collections of memories and stories that terminally ill patients would like to leave behind.
Candice, David & Hunter Hawthorne
10 month old Hunter Hawthorne has a disease called Hypophosphatasia. It is a rare and sometimes fatal metabolic bone disease. Hunter’s case is considered severe. Hunter and his parents, Candice and David, all receive supportive care from Children’s Hospital nurse Carol May. Candice and David worry about decisions they may have to make down the road including possibly keeping Hunter on a ventilator if at some point he is no longer able to breathe on his own. Right now – Candice and David are at odds about what they would do if confronted with that difficult decision.
Nurse Carol May is the manager of the Supportive Care Program, a pediatric palliative care program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Her patients are infants, children and teenagers who have a life limiting illness and who may not live through childhood. She works with patients and their parents and families to provide symptom management, but also to provide information and to help with difficult conversations, crises and difficult decisions. Patients and families who work with Carol have been known to describe her as “wonderful.”
Clydine & Stephanie Anderson
Clydine Anderson has been a hospice patient for over a year. Clydine suffers from emphysema – a lung disease that makes it hard for her to breathe. She lives at home with one of her daughters, Stephanie, and receives visits from a hospice team that includes a physician, nurse, social worker and chaplain. When Clydine’s symptoms become too difficult to manage at home – she is admitted to an inpatient hospice unit . When they are able to make her comfortable again – she goes back home.
Becky Gass has been a nurse for over 20 years, but says she has found her greatest joy in working with home hospice patients. Several days a week – the Forbes Hospice nurse gets in her car and travels to provide care, comfort and company to hospice patients in their homes. Clydine Anderson is one of Becky's patients.
Rabbi Jonathan Perlman
Jonathan Perlman is a rabbi at New Light Congregation in Squirrel Hill – and an interfaith Chaplain with Forbes Hospice. He works with terminally ill patients and families who are seeking help with issues of spirituality, faith and acceptance. Clydine Anderson has said Jonathan is one of her favorite hospice team members; and Jonathan has enjoyed singing gospel music with Clydine as he’s come to know her and help care for her.
Dr. Jonathan Weinkle
Dr. Weinkle is a pediatrician and internist and provides primary care and chronic disease management for patients of all ages at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. He also works with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation on policy and quality issues; and is the Medical Advisor for Closure: Changing Expectations for the End-of-Life.