Elara Caring Hospice Team Grants Patient’s Wish for Beach Visit
Article and Photo by Bill DeBus
Terra Childress got more wet than she expected during a visit to Lake Metroparks Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park on Aug. 24.
But the 30-year-old Mentor woman didn’t mind the fact that her dip into Lake Erie extended a bit higher than her feet.
Childress, a hospice patient who is battling Huntington’s disease, made a special trip to the park as part of a wish that she asked to be granted. When talking with her home health aide from Elara Caring, Childress said she wanted to put her feet into Lake Erie at the Fairport Harbor beach.
After her arrival at the park in an ambulance at around noon, Childress was hoisted into a special beach wheelchair. An employee from Elara Caring’s Mentor office then pushed Childress to the Lake Erie shoreline, where she immersed her feet in the water.
A few minutes later, Childress was helped up from the wheelchair and got to venture a little farther into Lake Erie with the help of two other Elara Caring employees.
Home Health Aide Laura Carter and Volunteer Coordinator Britanney Kuhn used their arms to prop up and support Childress in a seated position, and then carried her a few feet out in the water.
At that point, Childress was able to submerge her legs in Lake Erie. Carter and Kuhn positioned her so she faced the beach, and was able to look back at her close friend, Pam Gilliam of Mentor-on-the-Lake; other Elara Caring employees; and reporters from three media outlets who were doing stories about her wish being fulfilled.
When Childress exited the water and got back into the beach wheelchair, a reporter asked how she enjoyed lounging in Lake Erie.
“Really good,” said Childress, who resides at a long-term care and rehabilitation center in Mentor.
Gilliam said she thought Childress’ special day at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park turned out great.
“She’s happy, she’s excited and telling people she loves them,” Gilliam said. “It’s just a perfect day.”
Vicki Loomis, clinical manager of Elara Caring’s Mentor office, said Carter has been working as Childress’ home health aide since February.
“Laura has gotten really close with Terra, and they talk about things,” Loomis said.
During one of their conversations, Childress mentioned to Carter that she wished she could go to the Fairport Harbor beach and dip her feet into Lake Erie.
When Carter told Elara Caring administrators about Childress’ desire, those leaders “got the ball rolling” to make that wish come true, Loomis said.
“When hospice care is involved, we don’t sit on an idea,” Loomis said. “We got the OK to (fulfill Childress’ wish) and it’s involved about two weeks of planning.”
Huntington’s disease is an inherited disorder that causes nerve cells in various areas of the brain to die. The affected nerve cells include those that help to control voluntary movement, according to the National Institute of Health’s Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes.
Symptoms of the disease, which gets progressively worse, include uncontrolled movements, abnormal body postures, and changes in behavior, emotion, judgment and cognition. People also develop impaired coordination, slurred speech, and difficulty feeding and swallowing.
Currently, there is no cure.
Gilliam said that Terra Childress’ father, Larry Childress, also died of Huntington’s disease.
Elara Caring is a provider of home-based care in the Northwest, Southwest and Midwest portions of the United States.
Carter, the home health aide who works directly with Childress, said it was an emotional moment to see her client enjoying herself in Lake Erie.
“I had to hold back tears,” Carter said. “It was a very beautiful moment, she just loved it. This was all she wanted.”