Suncoast Hospice keeps family and COVID patient connected during final days

Sisters Dr. Kim Hickman and Attorney Tobi Blake-West shared their personal experience with Suncoast Hospice and how it helped their family navigate their mother’s end-of-life journey.

BY KAREN DAVIS-PRITCHETT, M.Ed. | Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

For more than three years, I have been privileged to inform readers about the care and services Empath Health and its affiliate organizations provide to the community. I thought it might be meaningful for the next few articles to let those who have benefited from those services share their stories.

Today, I’d like to introduce Dr. Kim Hickman, DNP, APRN, and her sister, Attorney Tobi Blake-West. Their mother, Missionary Edna M. Blake, was a Suncoast Hospice patient before she passed away at the South Pinellas Care Center at Orlando Health Bayfront Hospital on May 5, 2020. The sisters jointly shared their personal experience with Suncoast Hospice and how it helped their family navigate their mother’s end-of-life journey.

Q: How did you hear about hospice services for your loved one?

A: Hospice has been in the community for many years. We have had other family members, church members and friends who received hospice and palliative care services with positive outcomes. Hospice services for my mother were introduced by the medical staff at St. Anthony’s Hospital after it became apparent she had only a few days left before she would be transitioning.

Q: Which hospice support was the most helpful for you and your family?

A: Hospice was a godsend. They provided 24/7 care and helped guide us to make those necessary end-of-life decisions. It was also very beneficial to our family to know that qualified professionals were able to occupy that sacred space that we were not able to, ensuring our mother would not be alone at the end of her life. That gave us great peace.

Q: What do you want to share with our communities about your hospice experience?

A: Our mother had COVID at the end of her life. As a result she was in isolation, so we were not able to be with her as planned. We were thankful and grateful that hospice was there to address our family’s unique set of challenges and needs during a very difficult time. They provided patient-centered, compassionate care to our mother and to our family.

 Q: What was something that you learned about Suncoast Hospice that you didn’t know until they started taking care of your loved one?

A: Hospice was able to provide spiritual, emotional and clinical needs to our mother during the end of her life. The nurses were great. Not only did they provide comfort, but they also made it possible for the family to be involved. They had iPads that allowed us to communicate with our mom as well as with the staff.

The last few days before our mother passed, she was not able to speak, but we believed she could still hear us. We were able to speak to her and share what we needed to by using the iPad provided by the hospice nurses. We still felt involved in her care. The nurses kept us updated on every aspect of her care, especially during her final days. The nurse assigned to our mother called us immediately upon her passing.

Q: What would you like to share with families needing Suncoast Hospice services?

A: Hospice was a gracious gift to us. The hospice staff was simply amazing! Hospice staff helped our family to prepare for the death of our mother. They helped us to know what to expect, answered all our questions and provided space for us to grieve. Hospice provided compassionate care to our mother, which allowed her to spend the last days of her life with dignity, comfort, and respect.

Karin-Davis Pritchett

 To learn more about Suncoast Hospice, visit or call (727) 467-7423.

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