When Ken Reinertson, Fayette, walked out of the Waterloo hospital, they gave him two weeks to live due to end stage COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is one of the most common lung diseases). However, they weren’t expecting Palmer Hospice to come into the picture.
“When I was in Waterloo, it didn’t look good,” Reinertson remembers. “They told me I would probably end up in a nursing home soon. But, they told me I had the option of hospice if I wanted to stay in my home. Now, that was a silly question! Who doesn’t want to stay in their own home? It was a Sunday, so I assumed I had to wait for Monday to be admitted to hospice. But, I was wrong. Next thing I knew, a hospice nurse showed up to admit me so I could be home, where I belonged!”
A smoker for over 30 years, Reinertson hadn’t had a cigarette for more than 20 years. But, by the time he quit, his lungs had suffered damage that could not be reversed. Reinertson’s hospice nurse, Martha Fulton, explains, “The lungs are very sensitive and vital organs. Once lung damage reaches a certain level, it cannot be reversed. By quitting smoking, it stopped the progression, but it will never repair itself.”
For years, Reinertson had suffered with shortness of breath that kept him from doing things he loved. “I love to do small metal projects in my shed, but I couldn’t go outside in the cold. In fact, I couldn’t even go up and down my stairs anymore, which was very frustrating. Whenever I would breath, it felt like something was sitting on my chest constricting my air. It doesn’t feel like that anymore!”
Fulton comes twice a week to check in on her patient. Checking circulation, lungs, filling medications, and checking his vitals, Fulton enjoys her “grumpy old man”. “He tries to be grumpy with me, but I know he can’t keep it up for too long,” Fulton laughs. “When I first started coming he was in disbelief in how good he was feeling. He questioned how long it would last. But, here he is months later, still being his usual ‘grumpy’ self, feeling better than he has in years!”
Utilizing Palmer Home Medical Supply for oxygen, Reinertson loved the fact Palmer Hospice and Home Medical Supply worked together, behind the scenes. There was little “hassle” for him to worry about. In addition to the Hospice nurse, an aide comes to see Reinertson twice a week as well. “Lyndee Gage is the BEST! I love having her come around. She is the best there is…and I don’t say that often. She helps me with my personal stuff, like baths; but, then, you will find her cleaning out cabinets and clearing out medicine cabinets. When she’s not doing that, I will turn around and see her sweeping and vacuuming, washing bedding or cooking. You never know what Lyndee is going to be doing from one day to the next. “
And, the 77 year old can’t forget about his massage therapist that comes weekly helping with his circulation.
“We also work on education for Ken,” Fulton says. “When I first came, his goal was to get back to doing small projects in his home, which he had been unable to do for years. First, we discussed what COPD is and how it affects the body. Then, we talked about how to build endurance by resting when his body ‘told’ him to. And today, just a few months after we came aboard, Ken is back doing the projects that he loves doing. Going up and down the stairs, which was always a challenge for him, is no problem anymore.”
While he enjoys doing his projects, Reinertson also appreciates the extra time he now has to spend with his three children and seven grandchildren. “The more time I get to spend with my family is great. My wife, Ruth, died some years ago. But, I can always count on my cousin to visit for coffee every day and bring me the paper!”
And, what else has Reinertson decided to do with the extra time that Palmer Hospice has given to him? “Bake. I’ve taken up baking. Can you believe that? Gives me something to do these days. I’m not very good at it; but, seriously…how can something that is chocolate and sweet be bad?”