Music has always been Helens destiny. A preacher's daughter and Kendal at Oberlin resident, Helen was exposed to music at a young age, continuing her love affair with music today by volunteering her pianistic talents to accompany the Oberlin High School choir.
Helen remembers the music from a chilly February evening last year; she does not remember falling asleep while driving, nor the near-fatal car accident that followed.
I had a terrible auto crash on Sunday, February 19 of last year, Helen says. There was not a lot of hope for the old girl, not a lot at all.
Helen, who suffers from sleep apnea, was airlifted to a local hospital where she underwent multiple surgeries over a period of several days. Helen transferred from that facility to a subacute care hospital, where she remained for more than eight weeks.
Helen Returns to Kendal at Oberlin
In April, Helen made her way to the Kendal at Oberlin Stephens Care Center. I managed to come not in an ambulance lying down, but in my wheelchair, ready to whiz down the road, Helen says. They turned me into this beautiful room with a couple nice chairs and two big windows with a garden outside and a private bath and a bed.
I said, Could we move [the bed] so I can look out the window at the garden? because I'd been on the second floor of the hospital, and I'd only seen sky for the time I'd been awake, Helen recalls. That was done immediately, moving the bed. It was not an issue. That was the first signal that this was the right place to be.
It wouldnt be the last signal, either. The Stephens Care Center nurses, therapists, and staff continued to wow Helen with their compassion, friendliness, and dedication to service.
There were two male nurses who were very, very funny and knew that I didn't sleep well, so theyd come around 11 p.m., and we'd chat, Helen says. And then all the aides were amazing they really were.
The excellent service continued when Helen began physical therapy. Helen recalls one instance where a Stephens Care Center therapist went beyond her call of duty to educate as well as treat her:
One of the young women therapists was absolutely wonderful. I was lying flat on this exercise table, and all I had to do was to lift the leg just a little bit off the table. And I could get the right leg up just a tiny bit, and I couldn't move the left leg at all, not at all. And I said to her, Why is that? And she said, Put your hands where your muscles are, and there was no muscle there on the left side because I'd been in bed for eight weeks, never getting up. But the right leg, I'd had a broken ankle, and it had a cast on it that stayed on it all the time in the night, so that leg had had the experience of trying to move the cast, and so I had a tiny bit of muscle here, and nothing over here. It was well explained, and then we got going on the exercises.
Unconventional exercises like playing three solitaire games without falling down. That was a lot of work, Helen says, but it was fun, and it was quite funny. I kept saying, Cant I sit down? No, no. Put that 2 over there on that 3. And it was done with joy, as if they hadnt done it for a thousand times.
In time, Helen could stand and play solitaire easily, progressing to more challenging exercises like walking with a walker.
I couldn't go very far. And I was pretty mad because you had to walk from the central desk of the care center all the way down to the informal dining room of the regular part of Kendal, and you had to do that by yourself with a walker, Helen says. I was so tired less than nine feet from the goal that I couldn't do it. I had to stay and eat in the other dining room, but eventually it got so I could walk there.
Continuing Care When Helen Returns Home
Helens care continued beyond the walls of the Stephens Care Center, too. When it came time for her to return to her cottage, staff carefully examined her home, removing any possible tripping hazards.
I came back [to my cottage] in May, so in a month, they did it they got me better, Helen says. I could not stand when I came here. Imagine. Amazing, really amazing.
Helen can now move about without the assistance of a walker, though she sometimes uses a motorized scooter to travel far distances outdoors. She no longer drives, instead relying on rides arranged by the Kendal Transportation Committee and the Oberlin High School Choir Director, her good friend.
I chose Kendal at Oberlin because of the care center, Helen says. I just thought it was quite a lovely place. Helen credits the Stephens Care Center staff for getting her back on her feet and returning her to her life's joy: music.
When Kendal was built, its Assisted Living was designed to meet the future needs of its independent residents only. Now, through a recent expansion, Kendal is able to offer a limited number of Assisted Living accommodations for direct admission.