"I feel very blessed. The staff of Southeast Hospice always will have a very special place in my heart."
Hospice aids Regina Smith and family
on her terminal cancer journey
Mackey Smith remembers the tough times, caring for his
terminally-ill wife Regina.
What he also remembers is that he
and his adult children didn’t have
to deal with it alone. They had the
help of Southeast Hospice.
“I feel very blessed,” Mackey says, expressing
appreciation for the Hospice staff. “They
always will have a special place in my heart.”
Regina died on Feb. 8, 2014 at the age of 66
after a long battle with kidney cancer.
More than a year after her death, Mackey still
chokes up when he talks about his loving wife.
He says they were “high school sweethearts,”
just not at the same school. He attended
Woodland High School near Marble Hill, Mo.
She attended Zalma (Mo.) High School.
They were married for nearly half a century.
They moved around, living in a number of
different towns before finally settling in rural
Jackson, Mo. They also found time to relax at
their Lake Perry house in neighboring Perry
Mackey still owns the lake house. Retired
from the Procter & Gamble plant, Mackey
works part time, managing the private utilities
at the lake which is home to about 300 people.
“I love it up there,” he says. Mackey is the
brother of Lloyd Smith, the longtime chief
of staff of the late congressman Bill Emerson
and former congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson.
Mackey says he and his brother still regularly
talk politics. Talking about his late wife is much
Diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1999, Regina
underwent surgery to remove the cancer. Years
later, the cancer spread to an adrenal gland and
subsequently it was found in one of her lungs.
“She had part of the lung removed in 2005,”
recalls Mackey. She underwent chemotherapy. In 2010, her oncologist told her that the medicine wasn’t working.
“She went on Hospice,” Mackey explains.
With the care and support from the Southeast Hospice team,
Regina lived for more than three years before she died from her
disease. “I didn’t think she would make it six months,” Mackey says.
“Nurses came out to our home twice a week and checked on her.”
Laugh, Cry and Pray
Southeast Hospice was able to manage Regina’s pain and other
symptoms related to her disease. In addition, the Hospice staff
provided heartfelt compassion. “We would all laugh, cry and pray
together,” he recalls.
Donald Edwards, MD, medical director of Southeast Hospice,
visited Regina in her home on a monthly basis. Dr. Edwards
remarks, “We were fortunate to know Regina and Mackey long
enough to establish a relationship of trust and respect.”
Dr. Edwards says he works with “a dedicated, compassionate group of healthcare
workers.” He explains, “Our goal is to provide comfort care to those at the end of life.”
Hospice care is provided largely in the “home,” including nursing homes and assisted-living
facilities. Care is provided to patients by a skilled team of nurses, physicians, social workers,
chaplains, nurse assistants and volunteers.
Southeast Hospice Social Worker Vicky Hyslop, MSW, says she has dealt with
terminally-ill patients ranging in age from 2 weeks to 108 years.
A Beautiful Soul
Hyslop says she was privileged to care for Regina and assist the
Smith family. “She was just a beautiful soul, a good wife, mother
and grandmother,” she adds. “With Hospice, we have the honor and
privilege of sharing in our patients’ lives, hearing the wonderful life
stories, seeing the love and commitment and working together to make
“The whole idea of hospice care is to help control the symptoms of
the disease to provide quality time for the patient and family,” Hyslop
explains. “We take a very holistic approach.”
Hyslop adds that patients and their families can reach out to Hospice
staff 24 hours a day. “Sometimes the very best medicine is love and
support,” she notes.
Songs and Family Pictures
Hospice Chaplain Stan Hargis
brought his guitar and singing voice
to the Smith home. During his visits,
he played and sang gospel songs. On
some occasions, Regina sang along.
“She seemed to have a really strong
faith,” he remembers, adding that the
songs seemed to lift her spirits.
He regularly sings and plays the
guitar and banjo to comfort patients
and their families. “I offer hope and
encouragement in any way that I can,”
he adds. “I will do my best to play
whatever they want.”
Hospice Nurse Jill Essner, RN,
CHPN, visited the Smith home frequently to check on Regina and
the family. Essner says she grew close to Regina. “We became
friends. When I visited, she would share family stories and
Essner says, “I believe that the journey at the end of life is
a physical, emotional and spiritual one. I strive as a hospice
nurse to help my patients and families in all aspects of their