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Retired Nurse Heals from Physical, Emotional Trauma with Support and Encouragement of VNA Care’s Home Health Clinicians 

It was just before dawn on that life-changing day, as Patricia Boyle returned home following a brief stay in the emergency room while undergoing tests for pain. She started up the first of two steps to her porch when she collapsed and hit her head on the ground. She managed to get up, but fell yet again.

“The first time I fell, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to cry. There’s nobody here. You have to help yourself.’ The second time I fell within five minutes, I started crying because I couldn’t believe I was on the ground again and couldn’t get up,” remembered Patricia.

She eventually made it inside and got into bed, but awoke a few hours later on the floor, unable to stand and with no memory of what happened. She pulled her phone from the bed to the floor and called 911.

Patricia was hospitalized for a brain bleed and spent time at a rehabilitation facility before finally returning home under the careful watch of VNA Care’s home health care team, including Katy Swanson-Turner, LPN, Carolyn Gagnon, PT, Joe Twiraga, PTA, Coni Durkin, OT, and Karyl Learmonth, COTA.

“One big, wonderful thing is that they’re cheerful, but they’re serious about doing their job,” said Patricia, who worked as a registered nurse at UMass Memorial Hospital for 30 years before retirement. “They didn’t know I was a nurse at first. They didn’t know I could tell they were doing a great job.”

She took note of their holistic approach to helping her remain independent at home. Katy Swanson-Turner, LPN, not only monitored Patricia’s vital signs and checked for pain, but wanted to be sure that Patricia was eating properly and had family to help with groceries and other needs. Coni Durkin, OT, and Karyl Learmonth, COTA, focused on activities of daily living, like ways to safely shower and prepare meals. Carolyn Gagnon, PT, and Joe Twiraga, PTA, helped Patricia build her strength and even moved a heavy coffee table so she had an obstacle-free space for exercising.

For Patricia, the emotional scars from these falls were as serious as the physical toll. They were so traumatic she couldn’t think about opening her front door or look at her front steps without being overcome by fear. “I love to go out and do things, and here I was afraid to go out my door,” she said. “They didn’t just let me sit in my chair because I was scared. They gave me the support and that push, and said, ‘You can do it, Patricia, and it’s going to get better!’”

VNA Care’s team helped her learn to walk down the stairs using a walker. Patricia said, “I was so scared to put my foot down on that first step. They stood right beside me. Over a period of two or three days, they helped me, and I could do it.”

After mastering the stairs, the physical therapists would take her on walks outside. She grew stronger and more confident, and the team decided it was time for Patricia to tackle one last hurtle — driving. They taught her how to get in and out of the car and manage her walker. The VNA Care team gave her the courage to drive to the local post office to pick up her mail. To her family’s relief (and dismay!), after one month of visits from VNA Care’s home health care team, Patricia is back to one of her favorite activities, shopping.

“I felt so happy to be out again. VNA Care did that. I’d still be sitting in my chair in the bedroom if they hadn’t encouraged me and showed me how to do it,” said Patricia. “They gave me my life back. It sounds dramatic, but, honestly, it’s not.”