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The Jenkins Family’s Journey with Hosparus Health

In 1998, Beth and Tony Jenkins discovered the compassionate care of Hosparus Health when Beth’s mother, Marcella Sheets, faced a recurrence of lung cancer. The family was unfamiliar with hospice when they reached out, and Beth recalled how support from the team helped the family process what was happening. While Marcella’s time in care was short, the experience had a lasting impact on her family.

A Family Affair

Deeply grateful for the care Marcella received, the family began participating in Hosparus Health’s annual Dancing with our Southern Indiana Stars fundraiser; gathering each year at the event to honor their mother and help raise money for the organization.

Rex, the family’s patriarch, and a Korean War veteran supported their involvement with Hosparus Health. As the owner of Ernie’s Tavern in New Albany, Indiana, he was a community pillar, constantly surrounded by a regular flow of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances from all walks of life. “My father brought people together,” Beth shared.

Tony marveled at the impact Rex had on those around him. “As a former Marine and all-star football player, he was a man of stature and always had such a following,” Tony recalled. “Everyone just gravitated to him, and he was always such a winner to me.”

While Rex cherished surrounding himself with friends, his intimate gatherings, affectionately known as “Whiskey Saturdays,” were strictly a family affair. Each week, they congregated at their homestead, where Rex dimmed the lights to set the scene, illuminating the space with an old oil lamp on the dining room table. This special time was set aside for Rex to connect with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Rex celebrated his 87th birthday in April 2020 with a drive-by-style party during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beth shared that, in hindsight, she suspected he knew it would be his last birthday. As the party ended, Rex commented on a video, “This is the end of the trail for me.”

Compassionate Care, When it’s Needed Most

A month later, when a terminal cancer diagnosis came, the family knew what to do; they called upon the Southern Indiana team at Hosparus Health – the same people who took such diligent care of Marcella. “From the moment O [Onyinyechi Eze], our Certified Nursing Assistant, walked in the door, she treated Rex like the remarkable person we knew him to be,” Tony remarked. “She didn’t know him as the Marine or the respected community leader,” added Beth. “She didn’t know anything about him, yet she approached him with such respect and kindness.”

The family was deeply moved by the dignity and compassion shown to Rex during his last months. The care team not only tended to his needs but also provided invaluable support to the entire family. Tony shared what a difference it meant having their involvement, “When [Beth’s] mom received hospice services, everything happened so fast. I remember Hosparus Health being there, but I didn’t fully appreciate what hospice did.” He continued, “I really got to see the difference during the two months they cared for Rex. Seeing them come to the house is really when it hits you. They become embedded into your family – they were family.”

On July 25, the family gathered for another one of their cherished Whiskey Saturdays at Rex’s. Beth reminisced, “I had been with him all day, and we were both tired. I lay down beside him, his arm resting on my shoulder, and he took his final breath.” Beth recalled feeling a profound sense of peace and comfort, knowing her father was prepared. “I knew he was at peace; the Lord had come to take him. He had passed on to be with my mom, and I knew that everything would be alright.”

Paying it Forward

“Hospice allowed him to be at his homestead, which meant so much to us,” Tony recalled. “He got to spend his last day at home with family, which is exactly where he wanted to be.” Touched by the care Rex received, Beth and Tony pledged to do more. “As a family, it felt very important to us to pay it forward,” Beth noted. Together, the couple took on the challenge of competing in the 2023 Dancing with our Southern Indiana Stars event.

They wrote handwritten letters, sharing their story to help spread the word about how meaningful hospice care can be for both patients and families. Their efforts paid off, and the Jenkins received donations from 140 individuals and raised over $84,000 for Hosparus Health Southern Indiana. “My dad would have loved the whole deal!” Beth affirmed.

She and Tony are acutely aware that countless individuals confront serious illnesses without the support system that Rex and Marcella enjoyed. This furthers the Jenkins’ unwavering commitment to raising awareness about Hosparus Health and its services, which are accessible to all in the community, irrespective of their financial situation. Beth and Tony encourage anyone facing the decision to pursue care to set aside any hesitancy about hospice and pick up the phone, so they too can feel important and supported in their final days.

“I want all families to have access to the same compassionate care my parents had,” Beth concluded.

Won’t you help us make the Jenkins’ wish a reality? Give today so that dignified and compassionate care is available for all who seek comfort, and no one has to face serious illness alone. On your mobile device, text “Thanks2023” to 41444, or click here to donate.

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