Ellen Carroll was wearing her pink nightgown when she left Evelyn’s House, just like her granddaughter had promised she would be. It was a simple thing that made Ellen’s death just a little more bearable for the family that adored her.
Ellen was among the first patients admitted to Evelyn’s House after its opening June 19, 2017. The new BJC hospice house for adult and pediatric patients is adjacent to Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.
Patrick and Aja Stokes initiated the project to build the hospice house, which is named after Evelyn Newman, a prominent St. Louis community leader and philanthropist who passed away in 2015 at age 95. The Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newman Foundation made a $5 million gift through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to help build the hospice house.
These and other generous gifts from the community made it possible to provide a full spectrum of end-of-life-care to patients in a warm, homelike environment.
“Hospice care recognizes, celebrates and respects the unique life journey of each patient,” says Barbara Westland, BJC Hospice director. “Hospice helps families make every moment count by focusing on the spiritual and emotional care of patients, as well as physical comfort.”
An Alternative to Hospitalization
Following a yearlong cancer battle, Ellen received devastating news on June 14: the cancer had spread and was no longer treatable.
When her pain became too difficult to manage effectively at home, she was admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Though hospitalization was necessary to keep her symptoms controlled, neither Ellen, nor her family, wanted her last days to be spent in a hospital.
Ellen’s doctors suggested the newly opened Evelyn’s House as an ideal alternative to the hospital: a place where they could medically manage her symptoms in a homelike setting with her family nearby.
Such a wonderful place
Ellen’s time at Evelyn’s House was brief. She passed away on June 30.
Shortly afterward, her granddaughter, Ashley, walked into Ellen’s room to find nurse Diane McBroom gently brushing Ellen’s hair. She also noticed that Ellen was wearing a hospital gown, not her pink nightgown. McBroom told her that the gown had become soiled earlier in the evening.
Tearfully, Ashley explained that she had promised her grandmother would leave the facility for the last time in her own nightgown, not a shapeless, anonymous hospital gown. McBroom immediately took the nightgown down the hall to the Evelyn’s House laundry room, where she popped it in the washing machine.
“If I had to beat it on a rock, I was going to get it clean in time,” Diane says.
By the time the family left Evelyn’s House, Ellen wore the freshly laundered pink nightgown.
McBroom’s act demonstrated the care and respect she and the rest of the staff had shown Ellen and her family throughout her stay, Ashley says. Knowing that Ellen had spent her last days without pain, surrounded by love and caring, helped the family get through the hardest time in their lives.
“Evelyn’s House is a blessing,” Ashley says. “It’s such a wonderful place.”
By Kathryn Holleman
This story originally appeared in BJC Today Online.