Douglas S. had a very hard life. He was living in a hotel in Homosassa and was very ill when he was brought onto hospice service. When the admission nurse arrived she quickly realized he had little food and was unable to care for himself. He was unkempt, there were feces on the floor, an oxygen concentrator that was filthy, and the room had bed bugs.

During this visit, Douglas confided to the nurse that he was running out of funds to continue living in the hotel. Quickly, she admitted Douglas onto HPH Hospice services and communicated his living conditions and financial circumstances to the care team.

Because of the generosity of the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation and a grant they awarded to the Citrus Hospice Care Center, HPH Hospice was able to immediately moved Douglas to the care center. When he arrived he had a sore on the top of his foot from a rat bite, his beard was long and mangled, he was filthy and he had bed bugs in his belongings.

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The staff immediately gave him several baths, a haircut, and shaved his beard. They fed him and treated him like he was royalty. They had won his trust and he confided in them some aspects of his life.

He shared that he had a son who had been estranged from him for many years. He also shared that he was a Vietnam veteran. With tears in his eyes, he shared what it was like when he returned home from Vietnam. He and other veterans were not respected, and once he was even spit on for being part of that war.

The team rallied and arranged for a bedside veteran pinning ceremony. During the pinning, Douglas became very emotional and cried. He stated that this was the first time anyone had thanked him for his military service. He could not thank the team enough for the recognition.

As an added blessing for the patient, the team worked diligently to locate Douglas’s estranged son. They found that he lived in New York City and was working as a security guard at Mount Sinai Hospital. They contacted him and talked about his dad. The son recounted that he also was a military veteran and was a decorated Marine.

Unfortunately, due to the stay-at-home orders from the COVID pandemic, the son would not be able to come and visit for one last time. The care team arranged to provide a FaceTime visit for the father and son, to allow them to reconnect and say their goodbyes.

During this very emotional encounter, Douglas asked his son for forgiveness for “being less of a father than he deserved” and thanked him for “growing to be a better man than he was.”

Very shortly after the Face Time visit, Douglas developed respiratory distress. He died two days later. His son expressed that he was so very grateful to the team for the care they gave to his father. He was at peace knowing that he and his father had resolved their hard feelings and his father died with respect, dignity and honor.

This story was submitted on behalf of the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation.

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