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Adventist St. Thomas Hospice volunteer called to serve

Hinsdale – After Suzanne Combs recovered from a serious illness 10 years ago, she wanted to give back to demonstrate how grateful she was to be alive.

The Naperville resident has expressed that gratitude through volunteer work with Adventist St. Thomas Hospice of Hinsdale. After nearly six years with the hospice, she is still giving back by helping patients and families through a difficult, end-of-life time.

“Hospice work is a calling,” Combs said. “When I get a call to do a vigil for a dying patient, I gladly drop what I’m doing. I think it’s something that only other hospice volunteers understand. It’s not something you can share with everyone. But when you do mention hospice, nearly everyone has their story of how a family member was helped.”

Every time Combs meets a new patient, she assesses the needs of the patient and family. She might spend her time going through old photos or letters, and reminiscing with the patient. She might see to it that a nursing home resident gets to go outside. She might sit with a patient during the last hours of life, praying and massaging his or her hands.

“I was with my last patient for six months,” Combs said. “She was an artist. I was able to take her outside and help her paint.”

Barbara Zerby, coordinator of volunteer services for Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, could use dozens more volunteers like Combs.

“Suzanne cares a great deal for our patients and our families and it shows,” Zerby said. “She brings a unique gift to her work, she knows how to provide the companionship our patients need, and relief to the families. She is comfortable in end-of-life situations. She brings an inner peace that helps ease patients and their families through the dying process.”

A decade ago, when she was still living in Pennsylvania, Combs experienced her own brush with death. Her appendix ruptured and peritonitis set in.

“The doctors didn’t think I would make it, but I went through a long hospitalization and I recovered,” Combs said. She credits her husband, Jim, for making a tough decision and getting her to the right hospital.

“When you’re as ill as I was, you can’t communicate,” Combs recalled. “But after I pulled through, I asked myself, ‘How will I ever give back?’”

She soon found a way. After she recovered, Combs began volunteering at a nursing home. Combs knows the value of sharing with others during a time of grief. She was visiting her father in Florida when he went into the hospital for a routine procedure and died.

“When I lost my father, I wanted to talk to everyone who had lost their father,” Combs said.

Combs has certainly carried out her desire to give back through helping. In addition to her work at Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, she volunteers at her church, St. Raphael in Naperville, helping with altar preparation and special decorations. It is also through her church that she volunteers at Rainbows, a support group for children who have lost a parent through death, divorce or separation.

Through her garden club, Combs also works with nursing home patients, teaching floral arrangements as therapy, and she visits those club members who are facing surgery or recovering from an operation, sometimes bringing meals. She finds her hospice work very special.

“Hospice work is powerful,” Combs said. “It teaches us how to face challenges. It’s a gift given from the heart and soul.”

For more information on volunteering for Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, call (630) 856-6990.


Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit


Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health,; 630-856-2354