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Longboat Key Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 1 year ago

Circle of life: Hospice nurse cares for doctor who delivered her

A hospice nurse recalled caring for a Longboat Key physician who delivered her.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

There was something about the name of the patient Kelly McFarland was assigned as a hospice nurse in late 2019.

Dr. Ward Maxson, who for 20 years split time between Longboat Key and his home in Charleston, W.Va., was a well-known and longtime OB-GYN in the area, which immediately piqued McFarland's interest. 

"I see the name Ward Maxson, and I said to the nurse that was training me, I was like, ‘He wouldn’t have by chance been an OB-GYN?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, he was,’” McFarland said. “I’m like, ‘I think he delivered me.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, wow. That is [the] circle of life.’”

To verify what McFarland suspected to be true, McFarland brought her birth certificate for Maxson to see. His name was on it. Maxson delivered McFarland at two pounds, four ounces and 15 inches long in 1979.

“I said to him, ‘I owe you my life,’'' McFarland said. “My mom slipped and fell and had a health crisis, and so they had to do an emergency C-section.”

Kelly McFarland (pictured) spent 10 months caring for Dr. Ward Maxson.

Four decades later, McFarland was assigned Maxson as part of her duties as a hospice care nurse. They spent 10 months together before Maxson died Sept. 27, 2020 in his home. He was 85.

“I always have felt like hospice was my calling,” McFarland said. “One of the nurse practitioners said, ‘Well if for no other reason, it was to bring you two together.’”

Maxson’s wife of 46 years said she was grateful her family could count on McFarland’s care.

“It was just reassuring. It was a personal thing,” Patricia Maxson said. “When he was able to respond, he began calling her his ‘angel of mercy’ because she called him ‘her savior’ because, without him, she wouldn’t have been born or survived, so it was kind of a mutual respect for each other.”

Patricia Maxson (left) and Ward Maxson (right) are pictured enjoying each other's company. They were married for 46 years.

Ward Maxson graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1961. He started his career as part of the Public Health Service. He was stationed in New Orleans and on a Navajo Indian Reservation in Tuba City, Ariz. After the service and residency, he started private practice in 1969 in West Virginia. He also served as the chief of staff for the Charleston Area Medical Center and served on the Board of CamCare.

For the past 20 years, the Maxsons have split time between West Virginia and their second home in Longboat Key.

“I came back by myself for the first time, so I’m trying to see if I can do it,” Patricia Maxson said.

McFarland still keeps in touch with the Maxson family.

“He was an amazing man, and even in his final days, his smile could light up a room,” McFarland said of Ward Maxson. “That’s what my mom would comment about him, and I remember, even when I was younger, she would say ‘He was just the kindest man. He just made you feel like everything was going to be OK.’”

McFarland said watching hospice care nurses take care of her grandfather toward the end of his life inspired her to become a hospice care nurse.

“I felt so helpless,” McFarland said. “I thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to be able to make a difference.’”

McFarland went back to school to get a nursing degree from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. She already had a history degree from West Virginia State University on a softball scholarship.

Maxson was fond of tennis, and Patricia Maxson said she wasn't sure a lot of their Longboat Key tennis friends were aware of his passing.

“I miss him a lot,” Patricia Maxson said. “It’s very difficult being alone without him.”


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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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