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Lakewood Ranch volunteer enriches his life working at Tidewell Hospice

New hospice coming to Lakewood Ranch seeks similar volunteers

Lakewood Ranch's Richard Reskow said he "came to life" when he started to volunteer at Tidewell Hospice.
Lakewood Ranch's Richard Reskow said he "came to life" when he started to volunteer at Tidewell Hospice.
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During another doctor's visit for his unrelenting battle against prostate cancer, Lakewood Ranch's Richard Reskow was advised to quit his volunteer work for Tidewell Hospice.

"The doctor said all it would do is depress me," said Reskow, who was spending his Friday morning in his usual place, the lobby at Tidewell Hospice Ellenton. "So this is the thing. It does the opposite. It rejuvenates me. I came to life."

Those walking to the locked, front door of the hospice, push the button and look through a window as the 76-year-old Reskow approaches. The roadmap of lines on his face tell of a kind, welcoming man who understands that no one really wants to make this particular visit.

He smiles. Whether he approaches a patient, or a visiting friend or family member, he has a calming, peaceful influence.

"I didn't know how I would react here," he said. "But it's something that just comes to you. You learn from experience."

Stacy Groff, the director of volunteer services for Tidewell Hospice, encourages Reskow to tell his story. She said he is the epitome of what makes the nonprofit work, especially considering it must maintain volunteer hours equal or higher to 5% of the paid employees hours to meet Medicare requirements.

Construction almost is complete on a new Tidewell Hospice facility on Rangeland Parkway in Lakewood Ranch. It will be the nonprofit's eighth facility and by far its biggest.

It's largest to date is an 14-bed facility in Bradenton. While the Lakewood Ranch hospice will open with six beds, it eventually will be a 24-bed facility. Groff estimates it will take about 300 hours of volunteer hours a week.

Reskow will be part of the effort as he will transfer once the hospice is complete to be closer to his Watercrest home.

A sales, marketing and editorial executive for McGraw Hill for the final 23 years of his professional life, Reskow moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2001 and began to enjoy the good life playing golf all the time.

Then in 2007, he received the prostate cancer diagnosis and he restructured his life.

Initially, it appeared he beat the dreaded disease but it did force him to question how he was spending his spare time. He talked to his wife, Teri, and then began volunteering his time to the Center for Building Hope, which provided free services to cancer patients and their families.

"I wanted to step up and give back," he told his wife.

However, the Center for Building Hope filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2015.

Reskow went right to Tidewell Hospice.

"I work two-hour shifts on Mondays and Fridays," he said. "You answer the door, and that's a big deal here. A patient rings the bell, and in a half minute somebody is there. You do whatever you can."

Whatever he can includes vigils while a patient is in the final stage of "actively dying."

"Most times, a patient is unresponsive, but you can pray or read to them," he said. "I hold their hand. They often will have people come to visit, and if so, you can socialize with (the visitors) to make them feel comfortable."

Although the average stay at Tidewell Hospice is 11 days, some patients live at a facility for a year.

"I try to talk to patients who can or will talk," Reskow said. "Most are usually wonderful, lucid people. They appreciate everything you do, that you are spending time with them."

Reskow drifted into a description of the poem "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. "It's about our tombstone and the two years, when you were born and when you died, that don't mean very much. Between those years is a dash that represents your life. How will you respect your life?"

He then added that volunteer hours take all forms at Tidewell Hospital. "You decide what limits you want," he said. "If you don't want to get involved with the patients, you don't. But whatever you do, it's amazing the number of people who thank you, thank you, thank you. You get called things you (don't deserve), like saint and angel."

Groff said anyone interested can select from a huge list of volunteer duties. Some people make baked goods for the visiting family and friends, some check the exterior of the building to make sure the landscaping and lighting is in order. Some specialize in data entry or gardening.

Tidewell Hospice's 24-bed facility is scheduled to open early in 2018 on Rangeland Parkway.
Tidewell Hospice's 24-bed facility is scheduled to open early in 2018 on Rangeland Parkway.

And others, like Reskow, do anything they can for the patients.

"I am the person who is there when they die," he said. "I just happen to be a 76-year-old cancer patient. This makes you appreciate life like you wouldn't believe. But none of us is going on forever."

He referenced a famous quote by Nelson Henderson, "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."

"Here, I don't have time to think about the cancer," he said. "I want to push the end out as much as I can. Until then, I want to plant trees. But I don't expect to sit under any of them."


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