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Jefferson City woman committed to helping others

Jefferson City woman committed to helping others

September 6th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Connie Taylor talks about her trip to South Africa and what it meant to her to be able to spend time with and help children through a program called Living Hope. Taylor works for Hospice Compassus and said, although she sees a lot of living situations in this area, it couldn't prepare her for what she saw at the village where she spent more than a week.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

She's flown twice in her life.

Both times, Connie Taylor went to Africa.

The first time was to retrieve her daughter, whom she adopted in Ethiopia about eight years ago.

Taylor, a nurse with Compassus, returned from her second trip to Africa last week.

Compassus is a nationwide network of community-based hospice, palliative and home health care services. Its mission is to offer comfort and hope to patients and families facing serious illnesses.

Taylor was part of a team of 12 volunteers who went to South Africa to assist Living Hope (a Compassus sister hospice program in Cape Town).

"Living Hope provides an unbelievable service for these people," Taylor said. "We went out into these communities and saw patients who were already on their service and educated them on possible health concerns."

The Compassus interdisciplinary team included physicians, registered nurses, a hospice aide, social worker, bereavement coordinator, chaplain and corporate colleague. Members spent a week in Cape Town working side-by-side with Living Hope clinicians.

Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are significant concerns in the shanty towns of South Africa. The team did assessments on patients who were at risk of contracting communicable diseases.

They worked closely with health care providers in a local clinic.

"We showed them resources," Taylor said. "One of the main things was education."

The group got to tour one of the country's government-run hospitals.

"It was vastly different than our hospitals — what they had available to them as far as resources and supplies," she said. "In the maternity ward, they had six beds in one room. At the time, they had two women laboring."

If things went well with the births, the women would be sent home after about six hours.

In the United States, they would be in private or semi-private rooms and would likely spend two days in the hospital if they didn't have to deliver via cesarean section. Otherwise, their stays could be longer.

Through a partnership started in 2011, Compassus donates money, medical supplies and health care expertise to support Living Hope's health care and hospice services in the impoverished township communities of Cape Town, according to a Compassus news release.

Living Hope offers services to more than 200,000 underprivileged residents in Cape Town. Its programs focus on improving general health and hospice care, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and economic empowerment, according to the release. It provides health care for more than 36,000 South Africans annually through in-home visits, medical clinics and a 22-bed inpatient hospice center.

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The volunteers met with Living Hope founder John Thomas and his wife, Avril, whose motto is "Bringing hope and breaking despair," Taylor said.

Their philosophies align with her personal beliefs, she said. Before she became a nurse, while working for the state, Taylor had provided care for her grandmother as she died.

At 38, she quit her job and entered nursing school.

People should be in service of others and less focused on themselves, she said. She knew she wanted to be a hospice nurse.

"I knew I wanted to go on a medical mission," Taylor said. "I knew that if you were in the service of others, you are better off."

Going to developing nations can be eye-opening, she said.

It teaches people the little conveniences don't really matter much. The first day back from her trip, she spilled coffee on the console of her car. Taylor realized she was blessed simply to have a car and a job.

To be out seeing people.

To be of service.

"You don't have to travel to South Africa to give and to do," Taylor said. "We have people who are hungry here. You don't have to travel to South Africa to help. It's right here, and it feels good to help."

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