With the many advances in cancer treatment, today’s cancer patients have more and more reasons for hope. Portraits of Hope are the incredible stories of our patients and their journeys of hope and survival. Click on a thumbnail and scroll down to view each story.
Imagine living to be 102 years old and graduating from hospice. Evelyn Gibbons of
Florence knows exactly what this accomplishment means -- she has lived it.
Evelyn has been blessed to experience a full and active life surrounded by her four children, ten grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. A visit with Evelyn provides an amazing glimpse at historic events that shaped this world. She vividly recalls growing up in the South during the Great Depression, the bombing of Pearl Harbor as well as the wave of new inventions after World War II. She continues to stay on top of current events, too.
The eldest and only surviving sibling of seven children, Evelyn enjoyed 59 years of marriage with her husband Alton.
After Alton’s passing, the family recognized the need for someone to stay with Evelyn at certain times of the day in her home. Evelyn’s need for this level of non-medical, in-home assistance actually inspired her grandson David Coker to become a franchise owner with Comfort Keepers in South Carolina.
Five years later, Evelyn fell and broke her pelvis. Following her recovery, she moved from her home in Turbeville to an apartment at the Methodist Manor in Florence in January 2005.
Evelyn continued to live independe ntly with help from Comfort Keepers until July 2014 when she suffered a transient ischemic stroke (TIA) at the age of 97. The stroke affected Evelyn’s legs, requiring her to use a wheelchair. At this point, the family decided to move Evelyn into her daughter Carolyn Pearce’s guest cottage in Florence.
To keep Evelyn safe and secure in her new home, David arranged for one of his employees, Martha Scott, to serve as Evelyn’s full-time caregiver. The two women have become like family over the past five years. With a sly sense of humor, Evelyn added, “I have gotten used to having Martha around. When she leaves to go to the store I always tell her, ‘don’t get in a wreck because I need you.’”
In March of 2017, Evelyn suffered a heart attack which required hospitalization. She begged Carolyn not to take her to the hospital. “The constant blood tests and scans proved to be very taxing on Mother,” explained Carolyn. “Although she received excellent inpatient care, she simply wanted to return home.”
Due to her age and current heart conditions, the medical team recommended Evelyn go home under the care of McLeod Hospice. Considered appropriate when a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, McLeod Hospice strives to provide compassionate medical care, support patients and families, maintain dignity and enhance the patient’s quality of life.
Evelyn and her family agreed with the recommendation.
However, during the next six months, Evelyn’s health improved and she no longer met the requirements for hospice care.
“When Mother graduated from Hospice, I worried about how we could manage her care because the hospice team had been helping us so much,” said Carolyn.
Fortunately, Amanda Lee, the McLeod Hospice Nurse Practitioner who cared for Evelyn recommended the Home-Based Palliative Care program, designed to provide medical support to adult patients affected by progressive, chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer and dementia. The Home-Based Palliative Care program allows patients like Evelyn to remain home and out of the hospital.
“It brings great comfort to know that I do not have to go out in the weather or get a wheelchair accessible van to take me to a doctor’s office,” said Evelyn, one of the first patients on the program. “I have the assurance of knowing that I will not have to go back to the hospital or emergency room because they come to me.”
Another great benefit for Evelyn and her family involves her medications, because the Palliative Care team writes all of her prescriptions and hospice volunteers deliver them to the home.
This new outpatient palliative care program revolves around regular visits from Nurse Practitioners (NPs) in the homes of chronically-ill patients. These Nurse Practitioners work on a consultative basis with primary care physicians to enhance the patient’s quality of life by alleviating symptoms related to their chronic illnesses. This improves the patient’s ability to perform daily activities and to tolerate continued medical treatment. The Nurse Practitioners also help patients and their families understand their disease processes and options for treatment as well as establish goals of care.
McLeod Nurse Practitioner Tonya Marshall provides care to Evelyn through the home-based program. “She always has a smile on her face,” said Tonya. “Evelyn does not like for anyone to make a fuss over her. She always says, ‘I’m okay. You didn’t have to come, but thank you for checking on me.’”
Although Evelyn’s medical history includes coronary artery disease and hypertension, Tonya says on a daily basis Evelyn only takes about two medications. “I like to schedule visits to see her once a month but she does so well that sometimes she does not need me to come every month. I actually do not see Evelyn as often as my other patients.”
Carolyn believes the program keeps Evelyn healthy. “If she gets a cold or does not feel well, we can give Tonya a call, and she often immediately comes by to check everything out.”
When asked how she has lived such a long life, Evelyn simply said, “God. He is my doctor, and He will decide when my life is finished.”
She added, “I feel God is using me to tell people about the McLeod Palliative Care Program. I want others to know this type of care exists, and it is available before they need Hospice. This program can help people stay at home and enjoy more time with their family.”