Remembering Our Humble Beginnings

The calm, quiet neighborhoods were becoming the home to space oriented workers. Schools were seeing growth, with children moving in from all over the country. The “fast food’ culture was taking hold everywhere in North Brevard. There were very few, if any, home computers, no real internet, no wealth of family physicians, oncologists, nurses, or large hospitals, and no cell phones.

That was the world into which our Founder, Emilie Sasko, RN was attempting to introduce a new form of patient care – hospice in-home care for those in need of support for what was to be for many the last of life’s journeys. An ancient form of caring for each other that was well known across Europe, it had only recently become a focus for forward-thinking medical professionals in the United States.

By 1977 Emilie had managed to gather together enough medical and nursing professionals and ‘just plain folk’ with kind hearts and a willingness to serve as unpaid volunteers to begin the task. And so, the Hospice of St. Francis began. The program was not without its critics amongst the medical community, but eventually the work of the Hospice volunteers, both here in Brevard and across the country, began to be noticed, as were their successes. And then, in the early 1990’s, the Federal Government saw the benefits of hospice care and incorporated it into the Medicare program. With great foresight, the Hospice Board of Directors voted to seek approval as a Medicare provider for hospice care. And this is where I entered service with Hospice of St. Francis. Privileged to be its first Executive Director, I took the reins with a census of 14 patients, all located in Titusville, only one computer which was reserved for doing Medicare billing and the hospice payroll, 4 registered nurses, 2 part-time LPNs, 3 fulltime and 2 part-time CNA’s, 1 community physician that served as Medical Director for a small monthly stipend, 2 CB radios (the kind used by long distance truckers to communicate), loads of volunteers including our entire board of directors. The crowning touch was being housed in what had been a small, 1 bedroom home with no inside stairs and outside stairs that had no sheltering roof but had been donated to help our cause. With that, hospice began in earnest.

And here I am, 30 years later, still serving as a Volunteer. St. Francis Reflections has come a long way in 45 years! ~Cheryl Parker