In the kitchen of his Lake City farm home, Dwight Dial is surrounded by items that remind him of three loved ones he has lost.
Dwight’s father, Gerald, was a tail gunner in a B17 during World War II in the European theater. After the war, Gerald returned to the farm and married Alice Ann. Together, they farmed and raised seven children. At age 85, a lifetime of smoking resulted in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. In 2009, he began to utilize Community Hospice at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital (SMCH). Hospice brings terminally ill persons and their families comfort, support and compassion. When cure is no longer possible, Hospice provides highly skilled care in the patient’s home, including nursing homes.
Dwight recalls, “At one point, my father decided to stop seeing his doctor for checkups. The nurses communicated with his physician and they decided to let Mom take care of Dad at home with Hospice nurses helping. He passed on December 6, 2013. His last words to Mom were ‘I’m glad you kept me at home.’”
In May 2011, Dwight and his wife, Jane, were visiting their son in Alabama. Jane suddenly said to Dwight, “Something’s not right inside.” Once home, Jane made an appointment with Nancy Flink, certified physician assistant. Tests revealed Jane had ovarian cancer. Dr. Marc Miller performed surgery and Jane, a long-time Nutrition Services Director at SMCH, began chemotherapy at the hospital that felt like home.
In September 2013, Jane was taken to Des Moines to receive care from her oncologist where she stayed until October. When she returned home, she opted to do chemotherapy at SMCH, entering the Hospice program at the same time. The Hospice team helped with bathing Jane and medications. They trained Dwight how to care for her ileostomy (an opening made surgically in her abdominal wall) and give her nutrients through a port after she was unable to digest food. “Jane passed away on December 26, 2013, 20 days after her father-in-law. She didn’t want to go before Dad or on Christmas day. That morning, she said to me, ‘I made it.’” Softly, Dwight continues, “I told her it was okay for her to go, and she went.”
In June 2014, Dwight’s mother, Alice Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Miller performed a mastectomy, but the disease had spread into her lymph nodes. “My mother was very strong. She went home and convalesced for a few weeks and then began a series of 29 radiation treatments.”
Before Thanksgiving that year, Alice Ann acquired an infection and was hospitalized for 100 days. Dwight decided to take her home to his house where he could care for her. “The wound nurse showed me how to clean and pack her wound. The Hospice nurses also helped care for Mom.” Throughout 2015, Alice Ann was in and out of the hospital but in December she returned for the final time. She told Dwight, “As soon as I’m well enough, I’m going to go to Shady Oaks.”
She reached that goal on December 9. “The Hospice team was involved in Mom’s care at the hospital and the nursing home,” says Dwight. “The communication, care and support flow so well from the SMCH Hospice team. They bent over backwards to make the process as easy as possible for the family.” Alice Ann passed away on December 31, 2015.
Dwight is grateful for the care shown to Gerald, Alice Ann and Jane, “Hospice gave my loved ones the ability to live out their last days in dignity and love, surrounded by people who truly cared. They became our family during those very critical days. The sincerity this staff has is unquestionable. For the compassion they have for those that are leaving us and for the caregivers, I cannot thank them enough.”