Michelle Wulfestieg speaks to Saddleback College about hospice services. (Photographer/Sharon Tayler)
Michelle Wulfestieg was 11 years old when she suffered her first stroke. Wearing a leg brace and a big smile, the executive director of the Southern California Hospice Foundation outlined hospice care services available to about 75 people at Saddleback College on Tuesday, Oct. 28.
“Hospice services are available for anyone who has six months or less to live,” Wulfestieg said. “Hospice care is designed to comfort instead of fix, cure, or repair.”
An entire team of medical professionals in the hospice field come to the patient’s home and provide all aspects of care needed to make the patient comfortable. The focus is to relieve pain, ease breathing, and support the family through the end-of-life process.
Wulfestieg gave a compelling story of her life, having suffered a massive stroke due to a lesion on her brain. The details of her story are outlined in her book, “All We Have is Today.” She reflected that while most lesions are the size of a dime or quarter, hers was the size of a sausage. The lesion was inoperable, leaving only radiation as an option. Doctors told her she might lose her ability to talk and she would live to only be 30 years old.
A few years later during her high school years she decided to take life one day at a time and immersed herself in her studies.
Wulfestieg became involved in hospice while in college. She told a story of an 84-year-old stroke victim she was assigned to visit once a week. Eventually, she would write about her visits and at the end of this lady’s life was asked by the family to give the eulogy at the woman’s funeral. It was through this experience that she knew she needed to pursue a career in hospice care.
After receiving her master’s degree at Chapman University and marrying the love of her life, she had her second stroke. She experienced a near-death experience. She said she knew she was in the presence of God.
“I knew I was in the presence of God,” Wulfestieg said. “The place was so beautiful, so calming, so real that I did not want to come back.”
She remembered hearing the prayers of her family and others and noted how important it was to speak to loved ones even if they are in a coma, as they can hear what is being spoken to them. She definitely could.
Her work took her to a young boy whose dying wish was to go to Legoland to see the Star Wars display. Wulfestieg did better than that. She arranged for Harrison Ford to come to the little boy’s home, hours before he died. It is a memory she will always be grateful for.
Wulfestieg has gone from being “weak, wounded, vulnerable, and anxious,” to finding her purpose in life as she stated and encourages everyone to become involved and/or utilize the services of the Southern California Hospice Foundation.
For more information the Southern California Hospice Foundation, visit its website.