It Takes a Village

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What began as surgery that went “well”, quickly turned into a battle taking a village to defeat. Cindy Lutz, her husband, Ron, and the team at Brookestone Village were determined to have Cindy win the war and walk in victory, right out the front door. Ultimately, after a nearly one-year battle for her life, she did just that.

On September 23, 2014, Cindy underwent gastric bypass surgery, spent 23 days in the hospital, and went home. There were no complications or concerns…until pneumonia set in, marking the first of three returns to the hospital after surgery. Before having a chance to enjoy the festivities leading up to Thanksgiving, Cindy was back in the hospital with pneumonia. She was released right before Thanksgiving, back to the hospital with pneumonia and Type A influenza, and then released again right before Christmas with a brief stay at a short-term rehabilitation facility.

Christmas morning, Cindy woke up with an unbearable stomach ache. Her husband Ron took her to the closest hospital ER where an MRI found she had a perforated ulcer in her small intestine and needed emergency surgery. She then transferred to another hospital to have the operation performed. During surgery, Cindy almost died three times. Her small intestine was in very bad shape. She was opened from her sternum to her belly, and part of the wound was left open for three months post-surgery, requiring a wound VAC.

After spending a considerable amount of time in the hospital and being completely bedridden for three months, Ron let her know that she’d be going to a “nursing home” for rehabilitation. Cindy was almost inconsolable, as in her mind, the term Ron used to describe where she was heading was not the happy ending she was hoping for.

Since there was no availability at Brookestone Village, Cindy landed at the same rehabilitation facility where she stayed briefly around Thanksgiving. Things were not progressing as she and Ron had hoped while there, so they started looking for an alternate facility. By this time, we were well into the summer months of 2015, and Cindy had been completely bedridden since Christmas. As a matter of fact, you could say, she was bedridden since even before that, stretching back to when she originally had gastric bypass surgery in September, 2014. There was serious concern about her future. She was fighting what she felt was a losing battle, physically and emotionally.

Fast forward to August of 2015, and this is how Cindy came to us at Brookestone Village: She could not sit up in bed without help, could not dress herself, had been bedridden for almost a year, and she was lonely. Her husband Ron came to visit her daily; however, since she could not get out of her room, any other social contact was impossible. To say she was depressed would be an understatement.

The first thing she noticed upon entering Fountainview, her new household at Brookestone Village, was that there was a dining room; a common area for her to socialize with other residents! Although it initially took a full-body lift to get her out of bed and into the wheelchair so she could go to the dining room for meals, she said the Brookestone team members were determined to help her achieve this small but, in her mind, very challenging goal. In her words, “Everyone was so helpful and always offered an encouraging word. They knew what I had been through over the past eleven months and how important it was to me to be able to visit with other people.”

The Life Enrichment team provided opportunities that enabled her to get out of her room and socialize, which also supported her emotional needs. Cindy and Ron said there were so many opportunities for activities, and her goal was to attend them all! Jokingly she said, “I never did get to BINGO, but, there’s always time for that.” Some of their favorites were the weekly wine and cheese with entertainers, visits from the therapy dogs, opportunities to have her nails done, the couple’s dinner (which Ron unfortunately missed, but Cindy attended solo, sitting with a friend and her husband whom she met at dinner)…and THE DUCKS! Ron said he’d bring their grandchildren out, and they’d go out by the lake, visit, laugh, and feed the ducks.

As time went by, Cindy found that everyone at Brookestone Village cared about more than just her physical recovery. From team members passing in the hallways offering a bright smile and “hello”, fellow residents she met during activities and in the dining room with whom she has formed lasting relationships, to finally the nursing and therapy staff who helped her beyond what words can express, she said that everyone at Brookestone Village was “like family”.

To simply say Cindy went from needing the full-body lift to using the sit-to-stand, and ultimately, just a walker to get around, would grossly discount the amount of effort she has put into her recovery. In Ron’s words, “It is a miracle that Cindy is still with us.” He came daily from Ashland, where they live, to support her in the battle leading to her recovery. The couple said that the therapy department was tough with her (putting it mildly), definitely challenged her daily, but also gave her the strength, motivation and encouragement she needed to be able to eventually go home.

A little over a year after her initial surgery, after losing over one hundred pounds and fighting her way back from near death…Cindy walked out of Brookestone Village on her own two legs, using a walker only for support. She said, “I went from crying tears of sadness, to crying tears of happiness.”

Since leaving Brookestone Village, Cindy and Ron have celebrated 40 years of marriage and are enjoying his recent retirement, attended their grandson’s music program in December (which marked her first real “outing” since September 2014), and continue to come back to Brookestone Village from Ashland for her outpatient physical therapy.

In speaking with them, the joy they feel radiates from their faces. Although the couple is quick to give so much credit for Cindy’s recovery to the team at Brookestone Village, the true reality is that it ‘took a village’ to win this battle. Cindy was the commander, and we were merely the cavalry.

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