The Fighting Spirit, 2017

We started 2017 by celebrating the life of Robert Burr. A true lesson in perseverance, he had lived far past his expected time and continued all his beloved activities with a seriously diminished heart function. A week before Christmas, I was called by our house manager and Robert was gasping for breath and asking me to hurry there. When I arrived, he was turning purple and was rushed to the hospital and intubated. I received a call the next day from his daughter and she said I could come say goodbye before they removed the ventilator. He looked so peaceful; I was so glad to have had that chance at goodbye. My tears were barely dry when I got a call later that day that Robert had woken up, demanded the tubes out and wanted to return home to us. He was in his bed by that evening and Robert spent his last week on his own terms, with his family hovering over him before he passed away in the early hours the morning after Christmas.  

This fighting spirit was the theme for 2017. I witnessed some amazing recoveries and some serious fights for just a little more time. One of our residents kept his nurse and I on our toes as he seemed to come back after three “time of death” calls. I am constantly amazed at the human spirit and what our bodies can do! We had one week in 2017 that we lost five people, two in one day. Kathleen and Mark, our house managers, were amazing partners and the three of us managed to care for everyone in a way that I don’t think anyone felt they were not the only one in need of our time. We lost Billy that week, one of our longer-term residents. I was asked to attend his graveside service by his family, something we are not usually invited to. I was asked to speak, and it remains one of my most special days.  

Along with our usual day to day operations, Kim had begun talking about expanding our capacity. This was the year that we began looking at building something bigger. There were a lot of meetings, planning and daydreaming about what we would like our space to look like and how we could improve on our facilities to better serve our residents. We were really picking up a great deal more referrals and beginning to take in some more difficult clients. We were beginning to serve some of the “high utilizers”, individuals that frequently used EMS and ER services. We worked hard to help triage some of those possible visits to reduce the calls and address situations, often anxiety fueled, at home without having to resort to outside services.  

As we started to succeed and prove the benefits of our services the calls continued to pour in. This was the year I started to receive calls from different community partners as they were outreaching to higher risk individuals that might be a fit for our program. I have found that meeting people where they are at is something that builds a good rapport. I also like to meet people in the hospital for that same reason. It’s nice to get to explain what we are about and what our home is like. It is nice being a familiar face when someone walks in for the first time.  

The year was looking to end fairly quietly. We had hit our stride and things were running smoothly. That’s when Kim called me and asked if I could go look at a building with her.  

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rober burr

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