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This profile was last updated on 6/9/02  and contains information from public web pages.

Manager In Software Development a...

Phone: (914) ***-****  HQ Phone
IBM Corporation
1 New Orchard Road
Armonk , New York 10504
United States

Company Description: International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), is an information technology (IT) company. s major operations include Global Technology Services segment (GTS),...   more

Employment History

Web References
Gazette.Net: Focal Point, 9 June 2002 [cached]
Herb Rathsack: Helping people is second nature to Gaithersburg volunteerGazette.Net: Focal Point
Herb Rathsack
As a volunteer for Hospice Caring, Inc., Herb Rathsack of Gaithersburg helps families cope with life-threatening illness.
by by Ellyn WexlerStaff Writer
To his own self, Herb Rathsack is true.
"I enjoy fixing things and helping people.Those are basic to my nature," says the longtime Gaithersburg resident who has served as a volunteer for Hospice Caring, Inc. since 1993.
After retiring from a 36-year career with IBM as a manager in software development and technical education, Rathsack recalls "half-heartedly looking for employment."During this time, he read an article in The Gazette about the Gaithersburg-based nonprofit organization that helps people deal with life-threatening illnesses.Intrigued, Rathsack interviewed, then signed up for Hospice Caring's three-day training.
"The idea appealed to me because of my basic inner nature.I want to make things right.Without getting mushy about it, I feel compelled to try to take away the things that make people hurt or at least make them feel better," he says.
Rathsack thinks his altruistic bent is not unusual.
"I'm at the stage of life when you give things back.A lot of people do," he says, explaining that such urges -- "very globally you can call it teaching" -- may be expressed in looking for ways to help others or even grandparenting.
He feels that Hospice Caring's "fairly thorough training" along with 25 years as a manager gave him the interpersonal skills he relies on to be effective in helping families through the most difficult times of their lives.
During the sessions, Rathsack says, "you get a little insight into the things you might run into in family situations.It keeps you from being thrown and checks you out to see if you can function with people who are severely hurting and very vulnerable."
The training also acquaints volunteers with the resources available for families dealing with this kind of crisis.What Rathsack tells them, he says, is always a "judgement call.Each case is different.Some people are in denial about what is happening.
There are a few things about which Rathsack is more aggressive.
"I push saying good-bye, ask if you are talking to the people you care about," he says.
He also will address making sure the patient has a will and the family has thought about funeral plans.
"I give them leads, but the rest is up to the people," he says.
The level of communication with the patient varies.
"I've spent a lot of time talking with patients, primarily about spiritual things, religion, God, things I care a lot about.I've done a lot of reading, studying and thinking," he says.
Rathsack has learned from these conversations.
"Everybody looks at it differently.You find commonality but also new insights.I think the Hindu idea that there are infinite paths to God is a profound and basic point of view," he says.
He says the absence of verbal communication that characterized his first case -- a 92-year-old South Carolina woman dying in her daughter's Bethesda home -- was more powerful than any conversation he has had.
"Two or three afternoons a week, this wonderful woman and I would hold hands.She almost never said anything, but we communicated through our hands.She was something else," he says, still in awe.
Whereas Rathsack more often deals principally with the patient, sometimes the family is his focus.He emphasizes that the patient is always receiving good care when his attention is on family members.For example, he recalls spending almost all his time with a woman who came home to be with her dying 95-year-old father in his 150-year-old decaying farmhouse.Not only did Rathsack help her sort out medical bills and other paperwork, but also he did a good amount of home repair.Again, in the case of a middle-aged woman who was completely dependent on her husband, the victim of a sudden, aggressive and deadly cancer, Rathsack's prime concern was helping her "get on" with her life.This kind of situation, he says, can "lock people up."
Rathsack's own battle with cancer three years ago "took me out of action for a full year.I've never gone back to the intense patient load.I didn't feel ready to spend a lot of time with other sick people," he explains.
Rathsack has no permanent cases now.
"I punch in like a consultant.I'll take someone to the doctor, give a second opinion in a special case.Sometimes I'll come in to a training session as someone who's been there," he says.
"Herb is always available when a family is in crisis and has discontinued whatever he is doing to go immediately to the family requesting help," says Kathy M. Dietsch, Hospice Caring's Director of Family Services.
"When Herb realized that upgrading our computer would cost more than we could afford, he offered to donate his time to make us Y2K compliant.Herb has been in the office daily for 4-1/2 months," Lisa McKillop, Hospice Caring's Executive Director says.
Under normal circumstances, Rathsack works 20 to 25 hours a week for Hospice Caring.
"During the computer thing, I thought I had a real job again," he says, adding that he plans to take on cases "once I get this computer thing nailed down to where I can walk away."
The benefits, Rathsack says, are "the classic ones for people who help other people.You get a lot back from this.It's God's stuff.You meet wonderful people, learn very interesting things and somehow it warms your heart."
To nominate an outstanding community volunteer for the Gazette's 40 Who Care program, please call Features Editor Ellyn Wexler, 301-670-2045.
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