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The one hundred honoree: Martha Keochareon

Donor Story

The one hundred honoree: Martha Keochareon

Mass General Giving

After finding out that she was facing terminal cancer, Martha Keochareon, 59, made an unusual decision. Rather than spend her last months focused on herself, she wanted to allow nurses-in-training to learn about her experience as a hospice patient. She called her alma mater, Holyoke Community College, and offered herself up as a case study. A 1993 graduate of the Holyoke nursing program, she wanted to offer students a first-hand opportunity to examine her and ask any questions they had about her experience with cancer and dying. Two nurses, Cindy Santiago and Michelle Elliott, began visiting her two months before her passing. They gained true insight into her condition and her experience while practicing vital end-of-life care skills.

With a lack of opportunity for nurses in clinical settings to work on end-of-life care, the scenario Martha offered was rare and invaluable. Pam Malloy, director of the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, a project of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, comments, “We live in a death-denying society, and that includes nursing. People have begun to understand it’s important, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be at this point.” Martha’s keen understanding that exposure to end-of-life care was necessary for nurses is forward-thinking, and a glimpse into what future training could look like for healthcare professionals.

As with many generous efforts, this one also granted the giver a strong sense of worth. “I noticed that every time that Martha gave of herself, she received far more,” her sister Ruth Woodard said. “In fact, she received a few moments of less pain and I suspect that she received life itself — a few more hours, even days, with purpose.”