CASTINE - You can certainly call it a Christmas wish come true: Carol Swabb was critically ill just a few weeks ago and was transferred from a Dayton hospital to the State of the Heart Hospice Care Center at Wayne HealthCare in Greenville. Her one wish was to see her son, Mike Nixon, who was stationed in the military in Maryland.
Together, through the efforts of State of the Heart staff, the American Red Cross in Maryland, and the understanding of Nixon’s naval commander, that wish did come true and Nixon, a chief petty officer first class, is home in Castine with his 67-year-old mother.
Ask both of them how they feel about the reunion and they give the same answer: “Blessed.” Nixon said, “I can’t put a price on what this means to me and how blessed I am to be with my mother at Christmas and spend some quality time with her.”
His mother explained, “I was afraid I would not see him again. Yes, it is a blessing to be alive and with my family at Christmas.”
For her family, Christmas is the biggest event of the year.
The route to getting Nixon home had some obstacles, but thanks to many folks working toward a common goal, he was able to move his leave time up to make sure he got home to spend quality time with his mother. He had planned to come home just days before Christmas, but as his mother’s condition was not good, State of the Heart Hospice Nurse Gill Hawk urged Nixon to “move up his leave time.” Hospice staff contacted the Red Cross in Maryland and they helped in the process. Nixon’s commander also had experienced hospice care and the loss of a loved one and encouraged Nixon to get home as quickly as possible His leave was moved up and he arrived home Friday, Dec. 13. He can stay as long as the need is there, he said.
During this process, “Miss Carol,” as she was called by staff at the Care Center, began to improve dramatically. Her pain was brought under control and she began taking nourishment.
“This was great,” said Hawk, himself a military veteran, “as she wanted to be strong for her son.”
The transformation in Carol’s condition epitomizes the philosophy of hospice care: “We worked one on one with her, providing whatever she needed,” Hawk said. “We respected her wishes, giving her a say and returning a sense of control to her, and we allowed her to be happy.”
Carol now says that Hawk’s joking personality “helped her mood greatly.”
Nixon, who formed a bit of a bond with Hawk, said he appreciated the regular updates on his mother’s condition when he was in Maryland.
Of her week-long stay in the Care Center, Carol said, “I believe that place is one step from heaven. The staff there smiled and greeted me in a friendly manner. It was a calming atmosphere and positive, and best of all it took away the fear I was experiencing.”
Heather Wogomon, director of Inpatient and Palliative Care for Hospice, explained that the task of getting Nixon home was a “team effort” with the various members of the Hospice team playing a key role.
State of the Heart Hospice Social Worker Erin Meyer said that Carol expressed to her how important it was to see her son one more time.
“Our response to such needs is ‘how can we do that’? We try to meet our patient’s needs as we know it provides a better quality of life. We offer reassurance, and serve as an advocate for the patient trying to make sure their needs are met. Being home for the holidays is something we all want, and having her son home for Christmas was important to Carol.”
State of the Heart, with offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland, cares for patients in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. Staff addresses the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the patient and family.
Carol was well enough to go to her home on Dec. 12 which is what the Hospice care staff was striving for. Waiting for her was a hospital bed in the living room, a bedside commode and oxygen if she needed it. Next was the long awaited visit from her son, and the next day he arrived home.
Of his experience with hospice and the care of his mother, Nixon said, “I had no idea that Hospice did so much for their patients. It has been amazing.”
Carol acknowledges that “time is short and I know this is my last Christmas which is why it is so important to me.”
Today, she said she has little pain, has a good appetite, and recently slept in her own bed which she had not done since April.
“I slept 10 hours and woke up with a stiff neck as I had not moved it all night. It was wonderful to sleep in my own bed after so long.”
She enjoys sitting at the kitchen table, engaging in conversation and reminiscing about old times.
Christmas day will be one spent with family. Nixon said they may have Christmas dinner at one of the children’s houses, then come home and have family and friends in. Carol and her husband, Steve, have five children.
“I’ve had a good life and no regrets,” Carol said philosophically, adding, “It will be a blessing to be alive and be able to hug everybody in the family. I am looking forward to it. I truly am blessed.”
For more information about any of the services provided by State of the Heart Hospice, a locally based nonprofit agency, visit the web site at www.stateoftheheartcare.org.