Gift of a Lifetime
She loves to cook for her family, and insists on oatmeal for breakfast because it’ll fill you up until lunchtime. She is the type of person who will always be there when you need her. So when my Aunt Norma had a stroke on April 5, Grandma rushed to be by her side at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center the very next morning after the stroke. While my aunt was recovering, Grandma stayed for a month at the Walsh Family Village. And then my dad suffered a stroke.
He spent over a week at the Spencer, Iowa hospital, where Grandma drove back and forth to be with him and my aunt in Sioux Falls. Fate has a funny way of working things out; doctors in Spencer decided to Careflight my dad to Avera McKennan to go through recovery in the rehabilitation unit. Thanks to the wonderful nursing staff, Grandma didn’t have to go too far to see her children. The staff made sure that my aunt’s room was right across from my dad’s room, which made things so much easier for Grandma.
I flew to South Dakota from California after my dad’s stroke, but I admit, I was worried about where I would stay. I was worried about my dad, but where could I cook my own food? I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities. I can’t eat at normal restaurants. It’s pretty important to be in a place that allows me the flexibility to cook my own food. When I learned I could stay at the Walsh Family Village, my worries were gone. I feel so blessed to be able to stay there. This is one of the biggest gifts I have ever received; one I could never put a price tag on. To have a freezer, refrigerator and a crock-pot all at my disposal was fantastic.
If I had stayed anywhere else, I wouldn’t have had all those things. Grandma and I shared a room and cooked our meals together – everything from meatloaf and roast to oatmeal in the morning. We got to know the nurses and the staff, and they became our family. It wasn’t uncommon for the nurses to tell Grandma, “You remind me so much of my mom.” One nurse, Bonnie Rinehart, really clicked with Grandma. She gave her a book she’d written about her own mother. Grandma really needed that. She would be reading the book in our room and say, “Oh I just can’t put this down,” as tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Being with my aunt and my dad has helped their healing. My aunt has been released to a nursing home in Spencer to continue her rehab. My dad had two or three weeks left in rehab when he was re-diagnosed with Lymphoma. While undergoing treatment for the cancer, it’s important that someone stays with dad. I don’t think men are as in touch with their bodies as women are. Grandma or I need to be here to answer questions about medical history or changes in the body.
I’m thankful for the special time I spent with my grandma and the good care we received for my aunt and my dad. The goal is for them to be safe living by themselves at home and we can help them do just that. They’ll need us for awhile though, and we’ll be there. Just like you were for us. Without you, we wouldn’t have gotten the rest we needed. We wouldn’t have gotten the nourishment and energy we needed to get through the day. You made all the difference. I can’t tell you how much of a blessing Avera has given us. It is the gift of a lifetime.