Page 12 The Ann Arbor News, Sunday, July 5,1970
Visiting Nurses Help The Ill
By Diana Orban
(News Women's Editor)
A group which truly stands out in a crowd of busy and worthwhile Ann Arbor organizations is the Visiting Nurse Association.
It hardly fits into the category of a “club” in the sense of teas and social hours, but in a general way it is a club — comprised of some men and many women who provide home health care for those who need it.
Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is composed of several parts, including a lay advisory board, a field staff and an office staff.
Twenty-one community leaders and dedicated individuals make up the advisory board, which decides policy, coordinates volunteer hours and provides contact between VNA and the Ann Arbor United Fund, with which VNA is affiliated.
The advisory board is almost a story in itself.
For example, Mrs. Hansford W. Farris, president of the board, had never been involved directly with VNA before she was asked to become a board member several years ago.
She had, however, been a volunteer with the Child Health Center — also known as the Well-Baby Clinic — and had been recognized as a person who had a deep concern for community health services.
As a result, she was asked if she was interested in working with VNA. When her answer was a definite yes, she was nominated for the board.
The board is divided into four working committees including finance, education and public relations, volunteer and nominating.
There are also two advisory committees — one to the Child Health Center and the other a medical advisory committee — which are made up of professionals with the participation of VNA board members.
However, the public is most familiar with the field work of VNA — the image of the woman in blue carrying a medical bag and calling on and caring for those in need of assistance.
It is this actual community involvement that is emphasized by all persons connected with VNA, from office staffers and nurses to the board members.
The reasoning behind VNA and home health care is quite sound.
In the first place, the patient is more likely to be released from the hospital early if the doctor knows there is competent care awaiting him at home.
In these days of overcrowded hospitals and waiting lists for non-emergency hospital visits, this facet of the program is most important.
Also, through VNA, patients may cut down on their medical expenses.
Fees are charged for Visiting Nurse service, but the sum is considerably lower than hospital costs. (Reduced fee or free care for needy patients is made possible through VNA’s affiliation with the Ann Arbor United Fund.
The third reason that home health care is so important is that ill persons often feel more comfortable when they can convalesce in familiar surroundings. “Actually, people would rather be at home if they can,” Miss Patricia Walsh, director of VNA Nursing services, said.
In addition, VNA “has always served the total community,” Miss Walsh said.
There are no restrictions placed on the service—a person may be in any income bracket and may live anywhere in the city and those areas covered by the Ann Arbor United Fund. The only requirement is that the patients must be under medical care.
Usually a patient is referred to VNA through his family doctor, another health agency, or by requesting help himself through the VNA office. The nurse’s visits are as frequent as necessary to carry out the physician’s orders.
Miss Walsh emphasized that “home health care is a unique area. I’m not sure that the community is aware of the need for persons and funds.
“We feel that the agency is so vital and there’s nothing to take its place.”
Mrs. Farris agreed. “I think that the nurse is a welcome, welcome visitor,” she said. “She represents a sense of security; she is a friend in need to talk over problems. And some of these ill people are very much alone.”
In a way, the Visiting Nurse provides as much psychological help as she does medical help, Mrs. Farris added.
The women who work in the field include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and home health aids.
There also is a cooperative working arrangement between VNA and the public health departments. “We try to make it the most economical and coordinated effort possible,” Miss Walsh said.
The most rewarding part of Visiting Nurse service comes from the person-to-person relationships which are established.
As Mrs. Farris said, “It’s just amazing to hear the little stories of human courage. And we’re happy to have a part in the story.”
One such example of human courage may be seen in Everett Fox.
Many Ann Arborites first became acquainted with Mr. Fox when his picture appeared in The News last November as he was lying in a hospital bed in traction with several young visitors around him.
Mr. Fox, a crossing guard for T a p p a n Junior High School and St. Francis School was struck by a car on Nov. 13 as he was guiding some youngsters across the street. (The young visitors in the picture were students from Tappan.)
He received head cuts, a broken left shoulder, multiple fractures of the right leg, a broken left hip and pelvis and torn ligaments in the left knee.
His injuries were so serious that doctors feared he would never walk again, but according to his Visiting Nurse, Mrs. Leonard Lewinski, “He’s made tremendous progress! We’re all very proud of him.”
After several months in traction, numerous complications (“The doctors said he had every complication in the book,” Mrs. Fox confided), Mr. Fox, who is in his 70s, not only has been able to move and exercise his legs, but he has been able to walk with the aid of Mrs. Lewinski and a walker.
When Mrs. Lewinski visits the Fox family three times a week, she helps with the exercises and offers a great deal of encouragement in the task of getting back to normal.
In fact, when Mr. Fox mentioned that he’d like to be able to visit the children at St. Francis, Mrs. Lewinski said she’d be right there with him if he wanted.
Mrs. Fox said that the best part about having a Visiting Nurse in the home is that the nurse offers suggestions about caring for the patient.
“If you’ve never been in the situation, you just don’t know what to do. The whole thing throws you at first. You have to learn even simple things, like how to keep a sick room,” Mrs. Fox said."
There are other stories that are equally rewarding for the persons who work with the Visiting Nurse Association.
And as Mrs. Farris pointed out, “When you hear the stories of individuals and their fight to come back, it makes our problems seem rather marginal.”
Mrs. Lewinski Readies Everett Fox For Walker
Those Few Steps: A Real Achievement