May 21, 2019

Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg

James E. Lesnick, MD, Neurosurgery; Past Senior Vice President of Riverside Medical Group and Riverside Business & Venture Development (retired)

 

In 1982, professional hospice services didn’t exist in Hampton Roads. That year, Hospice Support Care of Williamsburg began to change the lives of terminal patients and their families, ultimately building a unique residential program and ushering a new type of care into the region.  

As a neurosurgeon, Dr. James Lesnick saw firsthand how hospice eased the burden on his patients and their loved ones. Now retired from practice and his prominent leadership and business roles at Riverside, Dr. Lesnick has been a member of Hospice’s Board of Directors for six years and will serve as President for the next two. 

“This program has always been about a community rallying together to take care of its own families,” he says. “We are blessed to have it, so it’s an honor to be part of it and help continue its history.” 

Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg, or HHSCW, is a nonprofit social model hospice, picking up where medical hospice leaves off to cover service gaps. The overarching goal is to keep people out of hospitals during their final days, and to let family caregivers simply be loved ones again.   

“With expert help, a wife can just be a wife in those last precious days – not the person struggling to provide care,” he says. “A husband can be a husband, a child can be a child, and so forth. That is immensely important and comforting.”

The four-bedroom Hospice House in James City County, which opened in 2002, provides 24-hour care in a homelike setting. Surrounded by gardens and woods, it features a kitchen, family room, sunroom and fireplace. 

HHSCW also offers in-home respite care, loaned medical equipment, bereavement support groups, and online and print resources on the dying process and responsibilities such as planning for funerals and tending to legal and financial matters. Programs are free to residents of Williamsburg, James City County and upper York County, with occasional reach outside those areas if possible.  

More than 700 people a year participate in HHSCW’s educational and support groups, which include general grief management sessions and targeted options such as surviving suicide loss; coping with the death of a child, grandchild, sibling, spouse or parent; and navigating cancer care. HHSCW also organizes memorial ceremonies and hosts a walking club and social group.

HHSCW is constantly forming new community partnerships. One more recent program, “Final Gifts Vigil”, aims to ensure that no person ever dies alone at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. Instead, trained volunteers sit with dying patients who don’t have loved ones nearby, a model that HHSCW would like to expand to other hospitals. 

“One of the worst things for nurses is knowing someone has passed when they’re not in the room,” Dr. Lesnick notes. “This is a great relief for them, and it’s simply the right thing to do.”

Dr. Lesnick is a longtime leader and innovator in the local medical community. After moving to Williamsburg in 1986, he opened a neurosurgery practice there in 1991 and helped bring the Chesapeake Regional, Riverside and University of Virginia Radiosurgery Center to Newport News. He led Riverside Medical Group for eight years and spent another three at the helm of Riverside Business & Venture Development, presiding over periods of rapid growth. He retired this past January.    

Financial donations and volunteer efforts are crucial to HHSCW; each year, more than 300 volunteers provide about 15,000 hours of time. As a Board member, Dr. Lesnick has served as Secretary-Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee and is looking forward to his term as President.  

“Families don’t have to feel alone and overwhelmed in these difficult days,” he says. “We have so many resources here, and we want to reach as many people as possible.” <

To learn more, visit williamsburghospice.org, call (757) 253-1220 or send email to info@williamsburghospice.org.

Western Tidewater Free Clinic

Anthony J. DiStasio, II, MD, Board-certified Orthopaedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center – Suffolk

 

The patients who Dr. Anthony DiStasio treats during his volunteer hours at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic often work multiple jobs yet struggle to support their families. They cannot afford commercial health insurance and many do not qualify for employers’ health plans as part-time employees.

Many have suffered from painful and debilitating orthopaedic conditions for months, if not years, from carpal tunnel syndrome to arthritis in their hips or knees. 

“These are people who have truly slipped through the cracks,” Dr. DiStasio says. “They’re not looking for a handout. They’re simply looking for a little help to get back to their regular jobs and home life.” 

Dr. DiStasio volunteers several hours a month at the Suffolk-based clinic, which is open five days a week to serve uninsured and underinsured patients in Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. If patients need surgery, he also performs those for free on a second day.   

Western Tidewater offers non-emergency healthcare to patients ages 19 to 64 who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($50,200 for a family of four, for example). As the only free clinic in a 1,400-square-mile service area, the bustling operation is one of the fastest-growing clinics in the region. 

Clinic staff and volunteers provide medical, dental, vision, women’s health and mental health care; pharmacy consultation and assistance programs; and laboratory and diagnostic testing services. Patients also gain access to surgeries and specialists through clinical partnerships. 

Since opening in 2007, the clinic has cared for a diverse group of more than 5,300 patients during 150,000-plus visits. Staff focuses on primary care and continuous education on chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, both in individual appointments and group counseling. 

Not surprisingly, volunteers are critical. In fact, medical professionals from a wide variety of specialties have donated more than 125,000 hours to date, a nearly $4 million market value. 

Dr. DiStasio handles injuries and overuse or degenerative conditions in the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and hands. He typically does five to six follow-up surgeries a month at Sentara Obici Hospital, such as carpal tunnel releases, knee and shoulder arthroscopies and fracture repairs. “It’s gratifying to be able to help so many people with fairly simple procedures,” he says. 

Most total joint replacement patients get a referral to a larger surgical program at Virginia Commonwealth University, he adds: “I see some very advanced pathology on our X-rays. You know a joint replacement is going to be absolutely life-changing.” 

Both medicine and community service have appealed to Dr. DiStasio since early childhood. As a football, rugby and track athlete, he suffered multiple injuries and was grateful when his orthopaedists recognized his eagerness to return to action. 

“They taught me how to take care of a whole person, not just a body part or problem,” he says. “I was also raised in a family that always emphasized giving back.” 

Dr. DiStasio, a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, served for 13 years in the Navy before transitioning to private practice in 1995. Prior to joining SMOC, he completed a fellowship at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and worked as Director of the Orthopaedic Traumatology Division at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He has lived in Hampton Roads for 30 years.  

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic is a real team effort, Dr. DiStasio stresses, based on core mission values of excellence, unity of purpose, respect, diversity, integrity and stewardship of all resources. 

“Access to health care is a huge problem in our country, and the staff is all in for these patients,” he says. “I’m happy to be a small part of its impact.”

To learn more about volunteering, visit wtfreeclinic.org, call (757) 923-1060 or send email to info@wtfreeclinic.org.