Women Making a Difference: Medical director helps families deal with death

By Sara Donchey - Anchor/Reporter
HOUSTON -

Helping someone say goodbye to a loved one who is dying seems to be next to impossible, but Dr. Hanh Trinh of Houston Hospice does it every day she shows up to work.

"Everyone wants to make sure their loved one has what they need in the last days,” Trinh said.

The former biomedical engineer shifted courses in the middle of her career, first becoming a family physician and then eventually joining with Houston Hospice to offer end-of-life care.

"(We help) with pain or … emotional needs, and then be able to gather people who love them around them and cohesively be able to help them in a way that makes their last days comfortable,” Trinh said.

As important as medicine is to Trinh, she knows the emotional component of her job is just as critical to patients. She remembered helping a dying woman who could not be with her family buy paint to write her children’s names on her sweatshirt.

"Even though there is a diagnosis of a terminal illness, they're still living. They can still share their experiences. It's important to help them to keep taking pictures, keep building those happy memories with family."

Mike Poythress’s mother is under Trinh’s care at Houston Hospice’s in-patient facility. Her battle with cancer is coming to an end and Poythress admitted Trinh’s visits to his mother’s room have helped ease some of the pain.

“My mom cannot speak, cannot open her eyes but she acknowledges conversation, and when Dr. Trinh talks to her, or I talk to her, she raises her eyebrows and I know she can hear,” Poythress said.

Trinh prides herself on being a good listener. She greets patients with a smile and is soft-spoken and polite.

“After an hour and a half to two hours, they're able to open up to me, tell me about what their hopes are, what their fears are,” Trinh said.

It is that pleasant demeanor and genuine concern that alleviates some of the anxiety of the tremendous loss her patients and their families face.

"At the most delicate time in my life -- when my mother is leaving -- thank you for what you've given to us,” Poythress said.

Houston Hospice offers a variety of services to patients and their families, including counseling and in-home care.

To learn more about Houston Hospice, visit its website by clicking the link here.

To read about its services, click here.

To donate to Houston Hospice, click here.

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