South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday September 29, 2020
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December 2006 - Volume 3 - Issue 6
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VITAS Lays the Groundwork

Growing up, back in the ‘30s, Sara spent a lot of time in her mother’s greenhouse. She learned the names of plants; she knew how to "dead-head" blooms and cut back plants to keep them looking their best. She loved sinking her hands into the soil.

Now Sara is old. Her arthritis and other physical ailments prevent her from doing what she loves most: gardening. In fact, she and her doctor have discussed her options. Sara, a practical woman her whole life, wants no more procedures, no more hospitalizations. She wants to be home and comfortable until the day she dies.

"Sara’s lived in the same mobile home for 30 years, and has always taken pride in her yard and garden," says Angela Suratt, a Certified Home Health Aide who has worked for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® of Broward County for 17 years. "Even after her husband died, Sara cared diligently for the plants in her garden."

Sara sits in her chair by the front door, and every day Angela visits for an hour. It is as much comfort for Sara as the pain medication she takes or the gentle massage therapy she receives. "We have a daily routine," says Angela. "Part of that routine is just sitting and talking, and Sara always returns to childhood memories of gardening with her mother."

With Sara’s 81st birthday approaching, her hospice team wanted to give her a gift that would lift her spirits. "We decided to resurrect her garden, which had dwindled for quite some time after Sara got ill," recalls Angela.

On a Saturday afternoon just before her birthday, team physician Dr. Douglas David and his two children went to a garden center to buy soil and mulch and drove to Sara’s mobile home.

"We pulled the weeds and cleared the leaves and stones. Then we shoveled a fresh layer of soil onto the garden bed. Already it looked better!" says Dr. David. "We dug several holes according to instructions from the rest of the team, scattered plant food inside them and then arranged mulch around the new holes and the plants still thriving in Sara’s garden."

Once the ground was rich with nutrients, the team was ready to plant.

Early the next week, Sara’s social worker, Ann Adams-Hove, purchased ten ixora bushes, Sara’s favorite. "Sara says the ixora flowers—which bloom in orange, pink, red, white and yellow—represent the colors of life," says Ann.

It was late in the afternoon a few days later that the rest of the team, including Sheila Larson, RN, and Rev. Alford Alphonse, team chaplain, joined Angela, Dr. David and Ann at Sara’s home to finish the job. "We arrived with our box of tools, ready to give spirit and color to Sara’s garden," says Rev. Alphonse.

When every ixora was tucked into the earth and watered, when every flowering plant had been pinched and trimmed and fed, Angela went inside to find Sara. "I dabbed some lipstick on her before we stepped outside so she would feel as beautiful as her new garden when she received her birthday surprise," says Angela. "Sara was speechless, but her reaction said it all.

"She told me the next day that we had brightened her life," says Angela. "Funny, though, I think she’s the sunshine that brightens mine."

Maureen Knips, general manager of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® of Broward County, can be reached at 800-93-VITAS.
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