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Hospice nurse Lisa Muse often finds her mind full of thoughts as she pulls into the parking lot at Levine & Dickson Hospice House - Huntersville to begin another shift. Although her commute is not far, getting from her first visit to the hospice house nine years ago to where she is today has been an incredible journey.

In 2008, Lisa and her husband Tom had found success in the corporate world, moved into their ideal home on Lake Norman, and were enjoying boating, water-skiing, and the potential of a life of travel together – which they thought was coming sooner than later. But Lisa’s world came tumbling down the weekend after Father’s Day as Tom displayed the first symptoms of an illness they would discover to be stage four lung cancer – an illness from which he died on September 17, just 85 days after diagnosis. He died at Levine & Dickson Hospice House - Huntersville after spending the last week of his life there, with Lisa making sure there was music, balloons, food and plenty of family members. 

“His room became our home, and the staff became our family,” she said. “As strange as it sounds, Tom’s last week actually contained moments that were joyful.”

But, when it was all over, Lisa found herself devastated, sad, and very alone.

“A grief counselor from HPCCR called me a month after Tom died,” Lisa said. “As I sat in her office for my first counseling session, I didn’t say a single word. I cried for the entire hour. She sat quietly and didn’t say a word. That’s when my recovery began.”

Months later, Lisa joined a support group which was held at the hospice house. As the weeks of group meetings went on, she found herself comforted by returning to the place where Tom spent his last days. Almost a year to the day after Tom died, she decided to become a volunteer for HPCCR.  Volunteering impacted her desire to help others even more, so she decided to head in a completely new career direction – health care. Her ultimate goal became that of being a nurse on staff at the hospice house where it all began.

First, she completed the requirements to become a nursing assistant, and then she headed to Central Piedmont Community College to complete her nursing degree.

“I loved school,” she said of her CPCC experience. “It was hard, but I made it because I always had my eye on the goal.”

She worked a year at a local hospital, then her dream came true when she joined the LDHH-H team as a staff nurse.

“I had no idea how comfortable it would be,” Lisa said. “I still feel new as a clinician, but I didn’t realize how natural it was going to be. I never pictured myself as a nurse ten years ago.”

She says she doesn’t bring up her story to patients and families because their experience is not about her, but she will tell it if it helps someone. “I remember stopping in to check on a woman whose husband was having a bad day,” Lisa said. “They were in room three, the room I donated in memory of Tom. She looked at my badge, then she looked at the recognition plaque on the wall and said ‘you really do get it, don’t you?”

In addition to the room, Lisa donated a memorial brick and one of the stained glass windows in the chapel in memory of Tom. However, she says LDHH-H has given her so much more.

“It’s my purpose, and it fills my heart and soul,” she said. “I gave a brick, a window, and a room. This place gave me back my life. ”

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