On Nov. 7, the Center for Campus Ministry hosted Caroline Walker for a discussion, “Dignified Life and Death: A Global Perspective on End of Life Care and Decision Making.”
Walker is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University and is one of the two recipients of the 2015 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship. This fellowship enhances the development of future leaders through world travel and experiential learning. Rooted in her strong conviction that every life is of infinite worth from its very beginning to end, Walker spent the evening engaged in a meaningful study and discussion on the issues surrounding end-of-life care from moral and ethical aspects to its technological and economic facets.
As she traveled to 22 different countries, she experienced real-life situations that gave her a greater sense of knowledge about end-of-life issues. Walker went to Portland Ore., where she shadowed in the University Research Hospital and learned some of their solutions for end-of-life care. She also travelled to Sydney, Australia at the Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Hospital, General Hospital for Renal Specialty. There she interviewed and shadowed them to find out that, in terms of end-of-life care issues, they are against paperwork, language and cultural barriers.
After arriving in Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines, Walker stayed at a local hospice where she was able to experience first-hand their care for the elderly, and how they built their care on the concept of purposefulness.
Instead of ending their life when the patient showed no health improvement, they decided to provide them with a sense of purpose and meaning. This opportunity enlightened Walker as she began to see great hope from their local community and realized that there are cultures which truly value individual life regardless of financial stability and limited medical resources.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, she learned that their hospices struggle between stigma surrounding cancer and HIV. Aids. As they strive to solve these issues, one of their best approaches is to fundraise money to provide healthcare to the elderly as well as forming an interdisciplinary (IDT) team that helps lead others to build equality to all persons of any life situation.
While traveling to Jerusalem, Israel Walker learned that their solution to protecting end-of-life care was to study the halacha law and base their knowledge on ETHICUS Studies (which are on faith and deeper meaning of faith across countries, particularly when making decisions in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)).
Walker traveled to many places including Brno, Czech Republic, where Gregory Mandela, the father of genetics, lived in one of the hospices. She then went on to travel to Wolverhampton, England, where she was placed in the NHS Trust Hospital and local community hospices, funerals and Mortuaries around the area. While living there for a few weeks, she was able to focus on the integration of palliative model, attended IDT meetings and witnessed baby funerals uphand at just 24 weeks of life.
She concluded her 11-month journey in Pittsburgh, Pa. where she stayed at the Hospice and University Research Hospital Palliative Care Team while visiting and interviewing patients and families in the hospital. Walker discovered some of their solutions to end-of-life care, which consisted of the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and the awareness of patients deeper needs.
Photo courtesy of Crystal Castillo.