By Maya Pottiger
In 1979, four individuals met in a kitchen in Chartwell. Together, they founded Hospice of the Chesapeake.
Known then as Arundel Hospice, the organization brought hospice care to Severna Park and the surrounding communities.
“At that time, most doctors were not making house calls. When a patient no longer comes to the doctor’s office, what do they do?” said Martha O’Herlihy, one of the four founding members. “They don’t get much care, or they go to the emergency room. Hospice was the exact vehicle to take care of that problem and to visit people until their death.”
O’Herlihy and the other three founding members — Fran Grauch, Mary Ellen Blondell and Norman Lambert — went to see Elisabeth Kübler-Ross speak at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Kübler-Ross was leading the hospice movement in the United States, and she inspired the four of them to take matters into their own hands.
“When we first heard her speak, we came up with the idea: If I were dying, I would want her there,” O’Herlihy said. “If not her, I would want someone just like her to be there with me.”
Not everyone was as excited about hospice care. In the beginning, the founders had to educate doctors and nurses about hospice care, and only had medical professionals working on a volunteer basis.
“We used a book called ‘The Hospice Movement’ in the very beginning,” O’Herlihy said. “We used that to educate doctors about what hospice care was, that we weren’t just another organization coming between them and their patients.”
At the time, O’Herlihy’s husband worked at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, so he was instrumental in helping them get volunteers for hospice.
“I used to say that you’re only as financially stable as your next fundraiser, although it’s not quite that bad anymore,” O’Herlihy said.
Fundraising has and always will be part of Hospice of the Chesapeake, O’Herlihy said. Though most insurance covers hospice care, not all does.
“It’s like God was on our side through this. There were times when we didn't have enough money to pay our rent, but we managed to get by,” O’Herlihy said. “I don’t know how you thank all the people. There have been so many people through the years that have come and helped us and lavished money on us and did fundraisers.”
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Hospice of the Chesapeake is hosting a gala on March 16. Steve Samaras of Zachary’s Jewelers will be the master of ceremonies.
The gala is Hospice of the Chesapeake’s largest fundraiser of the year. For 2019, the theme is “40 Years of Caring for Life.” The event features dinner, drinks, auctions and dancing.
The 40th anniversary gala will be held at Live! Hotel in Hanover from 5:30pm-11:00pm. For tickets or more information, visit www.hospicechesapeake.org.