JULIE PERALTA… YET ANOTHER INSPIRING PERSON
I was at Saint Francis West Hospice a couple of weeks ago and a young lady came into the lobby with a patient in a wheelchair. She parked him about 5 feet from the piano and settled in to listen to my offerings for the remainder of my hour.
While they listened, she was massaging the patient, doing dance moves and singing along with the music. Both were, I guessed, to be Filipino, so I played whatever Filipino music I had with me that day. They danced to Ma Ala Ala Mokaya, Ikaw and a few more numbers. They were having so much fun that I wanted to stop playing and join them. The young lady’s personality was intoxicating.
Most of the patients in a hospice are admitted if they're expected to pass within six months. The majority actually pass within two weeks because they're in a state where they deteriorate quickly. Many can't laugh or even smile. If they tap their feet to the musical beat, we know they're enjoying themselves. So laughing and carrying on is something I've not seen in my 8+ years that I've entertained at hospices.
Julie Peralta, it turned out, was a volunteer and has been volunteering at St. Francis Hospice since this past April. She is a caregiver by trade and decided to volunteer to help with the elderly, sick or handicapped. She is hoping to be a volunteer at the Community Living Center at the Tripler Army Medical Center.
At St. Francis, she assists wherever there is a need for help. She provides companionship, assists the staff in personal care of the patients, feeding and taking the patients out for fresh air.
Julie was born and raised in the Philippines. She grew up in a farming village high in the mountains and earned a degree in Animal Science and in Agriculture. She was employed by the Philippine Government, working in farm communities helping with sick animals as well as introducing technologies to help the farmers to improve their crops.
Julie went through the Red Cross training program for nurse’s aids when she arrived in Hawaii with her then husband. She soon developed an allergy to latex while working in a nursing home and went back to the Philippines in 2000 because the allergies made her severely ill and she was unable to work. The fresh air at the village’s 7,000 foot elevation and the care her family gave her brought her back to good health.
She and her son came back to Hawaii and she has been working as a personal caregiver since 2005. Her son is in his fourth year at the University of Hawaii, majoring in electrical engineering. She beams with pride when talking about him.
Most of her work comes from referrals from those in the industry, the Child and Family Services and from a home health agency. She struggles to get by but is grateful that she is healthy and able to also give of herself to help others through her volunteering activities.
But life is not all work for Julie. She’s involved in ballroom dancing and is a member of the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Association. If she dances with the same gusto and enthusiasm that I’ve observed in her interaction with patients, she’s likely very good.
Our community is indeed lucky to have people like Julie giving so much of herself to her adopted community and country. She's certainly a jewel of a human being.