October 23, 2011

Simple Gifts Program Makes a Dream Come True

We wanted to share a special experience our LightBridge Hospice Community Foundation was able to provide through the Simple Gifts program. It’s not often that you’ll find such a heart-warming story combining hospice and a Chippendales performer.

Here’s the story from Michele, our Foundation Director of Development:

Saturday morning I stopped by the San Diego Airport on my way to make a final wish come true.  An 83 year old woman in hospice care had asked for a Chippendales dancer – yes, you heard me correctly! 

When her nurse asked her one evening if she wanted anything special, she replied that she wanted to see a Chippendales dancer.  She recalled a time over 30 years ago when she and her daughter had seen a show and she wanted to relive that moment in time. 

It took a bit of time and perseverance to track down the right person but when we did, Chippendales management was more than happy to help.  One of their dancers volunteered his time to fly in from Las Vegas for a few hours to visit our friend in a skilled nursing facility in North County.  His father had recently been on hospice care and he wanted to help.

I was a little nervous about this whole situation but I have to tell you, it turned out to be an incredible morning filled with happiness, love, and laughter.  From the time I picked him up, I could tell that this was a kind and generous young man.

As we walked to our patient’s room, the hospice nurse warned us that our patient slept a great deal and it was difficult to wake her and keep her awake.  We weren’t sure what to expect but hoped that a long distance visit wasn’t in vain. 

Her son and grandson were there and soon the social worker came down the hall.  Sure enough, she was asleep.  As we approached, the social worker told her to wake up – that we had a surprise for her. “If it isn’t a Chippendales dancer, I am not waking up” she said.  You can’t script a scene like this one!

“Then you had better wake up” the social worker replied.  She opened her eyes.  The smile that lit up her face was delightful.  She looked at the young man and sat up straighter and started giggling.  She said again and again that this was wonderful and she couldn’t believe it was happening!

For 45 minutes all of us sat together and laughed and talked.  Our patient received hugs and several gifts including a plush dog dressed in a Chippendales outfit that she held the entire time.  The young man told us about his experience in Las Vegas and the interesting history of Chippendales.  Our patient told us about that evening so many years ago.  Her son asked questions and we all treasured her laughter, her smile, and her general animation.

It was time to go too soon and we got ready to leave.  Her son met us outside in the hall.  With tears in his eyes, he told us that this was the first time he had seen his mother so alert and happy since she got sick, except for when he brought his 9 month old daughter to visit.  I can tell you that none of us walked away with dry eyes.

Each of us has a different life experience and you can never tell what an individual may want at the end of their life.  Our Simple Gifts program has taught me that regardless of the wish, the light in the person’s eyes when their wish is granted is a priceless treasure. 

Help us grant more end-of-life gifts to hospice patients like this in San Diego by clicking on the Donate button and making an online contribution.  Whose dream will you help fulfill today?