The Long Goodbye

Chris & Biemler's

WDBJ and a Hospice Story

It was an unexpected, yet somehow expected, phone call in mid-September 2016 from WDBJ anchor, Chris Hurst, which propelled Good Sam into a nearly two-month journey of telling a hospice story.

In reality, the request from WDBJ to hear and explore our “hospice stories” had come well before Chris’s call. The original concept of a series on hospice care came from WDBJ reporter, Alison Parker.  It was Alison who called Good Sam first while she was wrapping up her latest series on child abuse.  She explained her desire to investigate the care that hospice professionals provide in an effort to stimulate discussion and discard fear for those in our community.   Admittedly, she had no personal history with end of life issues, but instinctively knew this was a topic that was often shrouded in the unknown.  She wanted to change that.

On Tuesday, August 25, Alison met with Sue Ranson, GSH President, Cindy Hagerman, GSH Community Relations Director and Russ Biemler, GSH caregiver/family member.   Alison arrived at Good Sam full of energy and purpose.  She was intent on investing deeply into developing a comprehensive, yet personal, story about hospice and end of life care for SWVA residents.  Her vision began to take shape.  And, the very next day, tragedy struck………….but not before she had shared her ideas for her next series with her boyfriend, Chris Hurst.

Chris’s call to Good Sam came a few weeks later. “This was a difficult call for me to make,” he confessed.  While clearly heartbroken, he was fully resolved to pick up Alison’s story where she left off.  He wanted her voice to continue.  So, several weeks after Alison’s original call, WDBJ and Good Sam embarked on a series of visits and interviews, this time with Chris Hurst and Alison’s dear friend and mentor, Kimberly McBroom.

Chris’s first visit to Good Sam felt almost like a long-awaited friend had arrived. The typical handshakes were replaced with hugs and the general introductory conversation was simply unnecessary.  We were all joined at a fundamental, core level.  Great loss and senseless tragedy had brought us together, but vision and hope prevailed.  As a professional journalist, Chris began to pull together the many facets of hospice care into defined themes and a progressive storyline.  We began to make links and connections – much like we had done with Alison on her first day at Good Sam.  Nevertheless, we all knew there was much more to this story than just a “story.”

After numerous interviews and interactions, Chris and Kimberly compiled the story they felt would “make Alison proud.” With the help of Good Sam staff, volunteers, patients, family members and friends, WDBJ was prepared to share the many aspects of end-of-life care with our community in hopes of enlightening and educating, two of Alison’s main goals.

As Good Sam supporters and advocates, we hope that you, too, will be proud of this hospice series. It reflects you and your story.  For some, hospice is a passion.  For others, it is a mystery.  It is our hope that this story will bridge that gap.

** This series aired November 16-20 on WDBJ’s 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts.**

A heart-felt and genuine thank you to Chris Hurst, Kimberly McBroom and the WDBJ videographers for your thorough and compassionate coverage of hospice care. Thank you for allowing us to walk alongside you in your own grief journey. We met you as friends, but you are now a part of our Good Sam family.  May peace follow you in the days ahead.

Good Sam Staff, Volunteers, Families, and Friends