For 15 years, Lou Santucci has been, quietly, and with great care, tending to grieving mothers, wives, husbands, and sons.

She has been the helper, when death is near, who eases the sorrows that bear heavy on the minds of those facing the great unknown.

And, through her many years of service with the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society, Santucci has selflessly given doting families the alone time they need when the role of caretaker takes too great a toll.

“I love sitting and talking to them, and hearing the stories, and sometimes they just need someone to talk to, because no one else is prepared to discuss the fact that they might be dying, or that they are dying,” she said in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.

“They need to be able to talk about that to somebody, and sometimes it’s us.”

It’s a difficult role, and it’s not for everyone. Volunteers often come and go, Santucci said. But for her, the reward of giving back is invaluable.

“You do get to know people,” she said, explaining “definitely you do, at times” get attached to the patients.

Santucci, a bookkeeper by profession, became involved with the society about the time her brother was terminally ill with cancer and passed away.

“That was in Grande Prairie,” she explained, “but we had a lot of help from home care and nurses, and I just decided I wanted to take the training for palliative care, and get involved with helping patients and families.”

As a volunteer, she collaborates with healthcare professionals to be part of overall patient care, listens to the client and his or her family, and tries to ease patient suffering and discomfort.

“You have to be able to spend time with the patients and families, and just be there for them. Not necessarily give advice, just to listen. Listening is the biggest thing,” she said.

Another big part of what Santucci does is help patients and families cope with grief.

“People don’t realize that somebody that is terminally ill, they are grieving because they know they are going to lose something,” she said, adding that “most people think of the family that’s grieving, but the patient grieves as well.”

The holidays, Santucci said, can be an especially difficult time.

But, despite the sorrow that surrounds them, palliative care volunteers like Santucci have to be “cheering,” she said.

According to program co-ordinator Pat Albrecht, the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society has about 20 volunteers. Some visit with patients, while others sit on the board of directors, participate in fundraising, advertisement and recruitment, and help with administrative duties.

All visiting volunteers—who sit with patients whether they are in hospital, a care home, or in their house—complete a five-week training course prior to visitations.

During that time, instructors stress the importance of respecting the confidentiality of the clients and their families.

To learn more or become involved, visit the society at 9812 108th Avenue, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 250-787-2814.

PHOTO AND ARTICLE COURTESY: Bronwyn Scott, Alaska Highway News


fsj palliative care 1b

Fort St. John residents place memorial ornaments bearing names of their loved ones who have passed on a Christmas tree at teh Calvary Baptist Church on Thursday, Dec 3 2015. About 40 people took to the church for the Fort St. John & District Palliative Care Society's annual memorial service. The service, now in it's 18th year helps those grieving the loss of a loved one feel better about the holidays.

PHOTO & ARTICLE COURTESY: Bronwyn Scott, Alaska Highway News


fsjpcs xmas 2013

Every year the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society hosts a memorial service for people to remember a family or friend who had passed away.

The event is called Celebrate a Life and was held on Nov. 28 at the Catholic Church of the Resurrection. In the middle of the service, guests were invited to hang an angel ornament on the tree in memory of someone who died.

The service spoke about coping during the first Christmas of losing someone special.

The tree will also be at Sobey’s from Dec. 6 to Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for those that would still like to donate to the local Palliative Care Society and add an angel ornament to the tree.

The Palliative Care Society is a non-profit group dedicated to help families and individuals dealing with a life-threatening illness. For more information, you can call their office at 250-787-2814.


fsjpcs hike 2012

Fort St. John's palliative care society is kicking off care week with a hike.The Hike for Hospice is in line with a national campaign to raise awareness and money for hospice palliative care.

This city's society has been actively aiding those who have terminal illnesses for 15 years now."Basically, we are a group of volunteers that have been trained in palliative situations with people who are terminally ill, so the outcome is not good for them," said Cheryl Deakin, Fort St. John's Palliative Care Society's Chair.The Hike for Hospice is an effort to raise money for training and education materials, supplies for the palliative care kitchen, furnishing two palliative care rooms at the hospital and more. The hike, more importantly, is to raise awareness of how important hospice care is."We want to let them be aware that we're here and we want to help," said Deakin.

She said they provide a pivotal role for families who are dealing with a loved one who's on his or her deathbed."What we do is we would get a call from somebody and we can go either to the hospital, or we can go to their home and we just sit with them so that their families can get a break," she said. "Because at that time of their lives, it's pretty scary and it can be overwhelming for families."

Deakin, who has been involved for about eight years, said she's "passionate" about the cause."It's just nice to be able to help people," she said.

The society has approximately 20 active volunteers, but they are looking for more."Most of them work during the day," said Deakin. "That makes it really hard to schedule."She explained that a volunteer's main role is to simply sit with the patient."We could read to them; we could give them a hand massage or a foot massage," she said. "Basically, we just sit and listen if they want to talk."As an outsider, Deakin explained that it's often easier for patients to talk to their volunteers instead of families because they don't have to worry about hurting their feelings."I've talked to a lot of volunteers, and they're really scared because you don't know what you're going to come up against," she said. "After leaving the session - it's rewarding."

She noted that their volunteers don't usually get called until the very end."We might have one visit, two visits before, so you really don't get to know anybody, and they're usually in a bad state when you do get to go," she said.For a nominal fee, training is provided to all volunteers, and Deakin said anyone can volunteer."One of our youngest was 25-ish, and then up to seniors; we have both male and female because lots of times we'll have male clients, and it's just easier for them to have a male to visit," she said.

The Hike for Hospice takes place at the Pomeroy Sports Centre on Sunday, May 6, 2012, between 12 and 4 p.m.In years past, because of Fort St. John's chilly May weather, the hike has had to be postponed, Deakin explained. Because of the indoor walking track, it is able to fall in line with the rest of the country this year.If interested in hiking, come at 11:30 a.m.For more information, please phone the Palliative Care office at 250-787-2814. Deakin said, "This 10th Anniversary hike is very important to our local group so that we can help to raise awareness and help to educate the community of the many challenges faced by anyone who is in palliative care and providing end-of-life care to clients and their families and friends."

PHOTO AND ARTICLE COURTESY: Katelin Dean, Alaska Highway News




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