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For Registered Nurse Kelly McFarland, joining the HospiceCare team in March was just meant to be.

Originally graduating with a degree in history from West Virginia State University on a softball scholarship, McFarland had first wanted to be a teacher. But watching as her grandfather struggled with illness at the end of his life, she went back to school at 30.

“That’s what drove me into nursing school and to become a hospice nurse,” the Cross Lanes resident said. “I specifically became a nurse to be a hospice nurse.”

After hearing many stories about the incredible connections that hospice nurses form with their patients and families, she was eager to make the most of each moment. As fate would have it, McFarland would not have to wait long to experience her own inspiring stories.

One of her first patients was Dr. Ward Maxson, a well-known Charleston-area OB-GYN who delivered thousands of babies throughout his long career. McFarland just happened to be one of them.

Born premature at 28 weeks, weighing just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, and measuring 15 inches long, McFarland was expertly delivered by Maxson when her mother experienced a serious health crisis and had to have an emergency C-section.

Reflecting on the challenging circumstances under which she was delivered, McFarland stated, “I owe that man my life, literally.”

When Kelly, now 41, was first assigned Maxson, HospiceCare Nurse Practitioner Lora Bowens told her, “If for no other reason for you to become a hospice nurse, it was for this moment.”

Kelly’s visits with Maxson became one of the highlights of her budding career with HospiceCare. She grew close to not just Maxson, but his loving wife of 46 years, Patricia (Pat), as well.

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Visiting the Maxson house weekly for six months, McFarland explained, “Pat would say, ‘Look who it is! It’s Kelly!,’ and Dr. Maxson would reply, ‘Oh, there’s my angel!’”

Thanks to McFarland and the rest of her HospiceCare team who cared for Maxson for his 10 months with HospiceCare, Maxson passed comfortably at home in September, surrounded by his loving family, at the age of 85.

Patricia Maxson, reflecting on the peace that McFarland brought to Dr. Maxson in his last few months, said, “He was her savior, and she was his angel of mercy.”

Dr. Maxson graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1961 and began his professional career serving his country as part of the Public Health Service, where he was stationed in New Orleans and on a Navajo Indian Reservation in Tuba City, Arizona.

After the service and residency, he started private practice in West Virginia in 1969. He served as Chief of Staff of Charleston Area Medical Center, was on the board of CamCare, and served the hospital in many other capacities throughout his career.

In retirement, Maxson and his wife shared the love of playing tennis and traveling, having visited much of Europe, South America, sailing the Caribbean, and exploring the United States, with a second home in Longboat Key, Florida.

“I’m really blessed to have taken care of Dr. Maxson and spent time with his wife and their family. She’s amazing. The whole family is amazing,” said McFarland. “I’m so happy to be part of HospiceCare. I hope to be here for the long haul.”

In addition to his wife, Maxson is survived by his children, Cheryl Pack (Timothy), Phillip Maxson (Mindy), and David Maxson (Kim); stepchildren Gina Hamlin (David) and Anthony Martinez (Leah); grandchildren Michelle Pack, Christopher Pack (Amy), Monica Pease (Eugene), Jared Maxson (Erin), David Maxson, Kyle “Max” Maxson, Kristin Maxson, Drew Hamlin, and Jack Hamlin; great-grandchildren Kadence Pack, Landon Pack, Charlotte Pease, and James Maxson; and his two brothers, Richard Maxson (Marion) and Wayne Maxson (Trinidad). The Maxson family has asked family and friends to make memorial donations to HospiceCare and the CAMC Foundation, as well as the University of Michigan Medical School, to which Maxson became an organ donor for medical research following his death.

(Jessica Hall is the director of Communications and Development at HospiceCare on Charleston’s West Side. She can be contacted at 304-768-8523 or 800-560-8523 or

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