As Charlotte Hroch looks around at her loved ones and reflects on her life, she said she feels blessed.
On a recent afternoon, Hroch, 58, was surrounded by her family and numerous staff members of Hospice of South Texas at her home in Victoria as she reflected on her journey. The time was filled with intimate, vulnerable moments as Hroch and her family reflected on her health and hospice experience as well as joyous moments of laughter as Hroch’s 1-year-old granddaughter crawled around on her lap.
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Hroch is in hospice care through Hospice of South Texas, a nonprofit organization that provides hospice services, caregiver support, veteran care and community support. It serves 11 counties including Victoria, Goliad, Calhoun, Refugio and Lavaca counties.
Like many others, Hroch said she used to have an understanding that hospice was something a person turns to only in their last days of life. But, she said, she’s eternally grateful she learned otherwise.
“Hospice isn’t for the end of life – hospice gives you life,” she said. “It gives you an extended life, and you get to enjoy it. Not every day is great, but there’s always something great in it if you remember to look.”
Hilary Lucas, the advancement director at Hospice of South Texas, said hospice brings medical, emotional and spiritual care as well as practical support to patients who have chosen comfort over a continued fight regarding their health.
The goal of hospice, she said, is to bring as much comfort as possible while adding support and peace to the patient. She said it is a full-family opportunity and is always a “blessing.”
“We support the family as much as the patient,” Lucas said.
Hroch has been in hospice since July 2018. She said because she has both bone and brain cancer, she decided to begin hospice to live as comfortably as she can. She is grateful she recognized that hospice is not just a last-minute step, and has been overwhelmed by the care of the hospice staff.
“Hospice is not here because you’re going to die tomorrow,” she said. “They’re here because they love you.”
Liza Lopez, a registered nurse and caretaker, has been Hroch’s caretaker and nurse for the entire eight months she has worked with Hospice of South Texas. Lopez visits Hroch in her home once a week, when she provides a variety of care including checking her vital signs, helping her handle medications and assisting her with any other needs. She also sits and connects with Hroch and the rest of the family. She has loved getting to play with Hroch’s granddaughter,
NoraBelle. Lopez said she uses Hroch an example to other patients. Without using her name, she said she describes Hroch’s positivity and outlook on life to others for encouragement.
“She is an angel on this Earth,” Hroch said of Lopez in return. “All of the staff are angels on Earth.”
Each of the hospice staff said that undeniably, it is Hroch’s faith that has helped keep her going and brings about her good spirits even on challenging days. Lopez said it is clear that Hroch’s relationship with God has helped her feel peace, and has given her an understanding that even when she dies, she can feel confident in where she’s going.
When Hroch had cancer the first time, she said, her only child, James “J.R.” Hrabovsky, was 11. She said she was diagnosed with cancer again exactly four years later, and her goal then was to see her son graduate high school. More recently, Hroch said her goal was to live long enough to see her grandchild be born.
Now, Hrabovsky is 30, married and has NoraBelle. Hroch has had the opportunity to celebrate her granddaughter’s first birthday.
“And I know that’s all due to God,” she said.
Hrabovsky and his wife, Mercedes Hrabovsky, said they took Hroch in to live with them when it was clear it was time. Within days of her moving in, he said, the hospice staff came and made things comfortable.
“It went from a real negative situation to a real positive one,” he said, adding that from the moment hospice arrived, things have been “100% better.”
Mercedes Hrabovsky said having Hroch live with the family is as much of a blessing to them as it is for her.
“The first thing she does, every day, is think of us,” she said.
Lisa Blohm, a licensed master social worker at Hospice of South Texas, said despite the common belief that hospice is something someone turns to only at the end, there is a positive trend of people utilizing hospice services sooner.
Earlier enrollment in hospice can be far more beneficial to a patient and their loved ones than a last-minute admission in a state of crisis, Blohm explained, with advantages such as better pain and symptom control, access to medical supplies and equipment, bereavement support for the patient and their family and an improved quality of life for the patient overall.
Blohm said Hroch is a “wonderful example” of the trend. For example, she said, she’s been able to complete her advance directives, ease her pain and organize plans for her own funeral.
“And I’ve had the opportunity that a lot of people don’t,” Hroch added, “which is to say goodbye. And that’s priceless.”
Blohm explained that Hospice of South Texas does have a 12-bed in-person facility for short-term stays, but the goal is to have all patients be in the comfort of their homes. Echoing Hroch, Blohm said she hopes Crossroads residents and their families know that hospice is a positive step.
“A terminal diagnosis is not the end,” Blohm said. “Starting hospice can be the first step to a better quality of life.”
Looking around her group of loved ones and holding her granddaughter tightly, Hroch nodded her head in agreement. She said she is at peace with her situation and grateful for the journey she has had.
“One day I’ll go, and that’ll be OK,” she said. “But until then, we have each other.”