It has been over four years since I met Toni in Abbeyfield. She was one of Abbeyfield’s first residents and now after having lived there for 8 years she has become a resident of Ty Watson House. Last week Toni phoned me and asked if I could come and see her. I was most pleased to visit her, and as it turned out, this visit had great purpose.
Toni explained she felt a strong need to educate the public about life in Ty Watson House. I met her in her room. After a volunteer brought coffee and made sure both of us were comfortable, Toni started to speak with such passion and gratitude, that she made me hang on to each word she said. I quickly realised she had an important message to tell and a strong need to get this message out.
Toni agreed to become my co-writer for this column. You now will have the opportunity to get information about Port Alberni’s hospice house directly from a resident, and I am most grateful to this wonderful lady for sharing such personal experience with me and making it available to you. I can only hope my writing does Toni’s intentions justice.
Four weeks ago Toni Nelson was in the hospital where she received a life limiting prognosis; one that hit her hard and made her feel her life was reduced to almost nothing, she felt lost and she came close to passing on. Going through the motions she next found herself in this wonderful place called Ty Watson House. She had to admit, her perception of the house was totally different from what she was experiencing now. She had thought like many others did, that if somebody she knew was in the hospital and then heard that this person had gone to stay in Ty Watson House, this would mean the end, and she remembers thinking; “too bad, poor thing”.
Now, living at Ty Watson herself, she feels bad about her misconception. The first morning Toni woke up in her room at Ty Watson House, she felt an aura of devotion giving her the comfort she needed. She receives unbelievable attention and she finds it hard to describe the incredible people that operate the house. According to Toni there is nothing, absolutely nothing that they would not do for her. She has gained so much strength since she arrived at the house and she feels a need to educate people about life in Ty Watson House.
For Toni, being admitted to Port Alberni’s Hospice House is less about the end and more about living. She wishes more houses like this could be opened, to provide comfort, adequate attention and care for people like her. Watching the staff and volunteers take care of the residents with great compassion, she notices the values they share in life and it gives her hope for a future in which people are willing to take care of each other. Living in Ty Watson House, receiving the best care she needs, is a special gift to Toni and she would love to give back. She would like to help to get the recognition for houses like this, and she would love to see these houses spread all over the country and beyond.
She recalls the two friends we both knew, who stayed in Ty Watson House for several months before they passed on. Toni now knows, they were truly pampered and loved, they must have felt secure like her and security means peace. Having said that, she tells me about the fun they have in the house and that the atmosphere is far from gloom and doom. With a laugh in her voice she shares with me her mornings. If she wakes up not feeling good, the staff will keep her comfortable and let her rest, but on the good mornings, they are all full of mischief and she loves to play along, having them pick her clothes, jewellery and have them put on her make up, all the while joking. By the time Toni goes downstairs people will not believe she is sick and even Toni has forgotten her physical condition. Instead of feeling sick she feels like, and these are her own words; “an antique Barbie Doll”. She says she loves every minute of it!
According to Toni Nelson Ty Watson House is not about waiting for your last minute, for her it stands for; care and loving, for living without fears and feeling safe, for having always somebody at your side making you comfortable, for never feeling alone, for receiving what you need no matter what time it is, day or night and for having good laughs with those who care for you.
In the years that I have known Toni, I have come to know her as a great lady, and there are a few things in her life she has always tried to live by: truth, complete honesty and justice. She will never colour the truth, if the truth is black and white, she will give it to you the way it is. Hearing her say; she has gained so much knowledge about all these beautiful people in the house warms my heart. She wants to pass this knowledge along. Her story is not about herself, it is about what she is experiencing. She points out that the hospice care she is receiving has nothing to do with religion as some people like to think, it has to do with compassionate humanity and no barriers.
Toni has learned so much about this wonderful concept of care, creating a strong need within her to share that knowledge and tell the people: “look, look at the prize I have.” She wants to share her feelings and help create an understanding for how important the care is she is receiving now. She would love to see many small hospice houses like the one we are so lucky to have in Port Alberni. There are so many people out there like her, who do deserve what she has.
Toni has been in Ty Watson House a little over a month and she ends our conversation by saying: “I live here, this is my home.”
If you would like to know more about Ty Watson House and the services offered by the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, please call us at 250-723-4478.