We are in the last week our Spring Community Engagement drive to benefit the Bird House. Thank you to everyone who has already donated or helped to spread the word. Every contribution provides one more day or one fewer concern to an organization dedicated to helping Iowans die with dignity.
The full wish list the Bird House has provided includes things like oven mitts, trash bags, postage stamps, coffee, and tissues. Donation drop-off locations have been placed in each division, but cash donations are also gratefully accepted. Though our department campaign ends on May 31, we encourage our members to continue to remember the Bird House as they consider volunteer and philanthropic options.
Leadership at the Bird House provided us with moving testimonials willingly offered by the family of Bird House residents. We are deeply grateful for their generosity in helping us better understand the impact Bird House has.
Lisa Caronia (at the Bird House from 5/22/18–6/16/18)
Nursing was Lisa Caronia’s occupation for much of her adult life. She worked as a Psych nurse in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. She was working to complete her Master’s degree in nursing when she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and continued working on her degree from her bed. She completed everything but her practicum as her cancer reached stage 4. She also was a mother and a grandmother, with two grandchildren. She was a die-hard Cubs fan and she loved to watch Wheel of Fortune. She and her mom, Linda, watched together almost every day. Lisa loved to have her hair done, and as her mother would say, she was a “Girly Girl,” enjoying makeup and nail polish and all the beauty treatments possible. A good day included chocolate, especially chocolate ice cream.
It was during her time in Texas that Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer and she had a double mastectomy. For a year, she was cancer-free. Then she began to experience memory problems and a brain tumor was discovered. She came back to Iowa to live with her mother and stepfather. Treatments included two brain surgeries with little relief and the cancer advanced through her body. A week before she moved to the Bird House, a tumor fractured a vertebra in her spine, causing her to be unable to stand or bear weight. Radiation to the spine was tried with the hope of increased leg strength, to no avail. On May 18th, Lisa moved to the Bird House and entered hospice care.
Lisa appreciated the compassionate care that she received at the UIHC and especially on Palliative Care while she was a patient there. Pain was a constant concern but was controlled for the most part by a PCA pump that Lisa could press when needed. When Lisa moved to the Bird House, Iowa City Hospice provided the care plan and regulated the medications, including the cassettes for the pump. Because of the care both at UIHC and at the Bird House, with support from Iowa City Hospice, Lisa was able to have time with her family and to die a peaceful death. The night that Lisa died, the Cubs won, just as she would have wanted.
Chris Roy, (at the Bird House from 12/31/18–2/10/19)
Whether it was hitchhiking across Algeria or serving in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso or teaching African Art History at the University of Iowa, Dr. Christopher Roy lived life to the fullest every day of his life. It seemed that nothing could slow him down but then cancer got in his way. Still he continued to live his life as well and as fully as he could. Despite having stage 4 brain and lung cancer due to malignant melanoma, Chris continued to mentor students and even after his admission to the Bird House, he was able to monitor the beginnings of his Spring 2019 online course from his room there. Chris was a loving husband, father and grandfather as well, spending time with his family almost every day.
Chris’s journey to the Bird House began at UIHC. He spent almost all of December 2018 as an inpatient and then once he had moved to the Bird House, he continued to go back to the hospital for palliative radiation two or three times to relieve pain and swelling in his brain. His family was appreciative that Iowa City Hospice and the medical team created a care plan that allowed Chris to keep his goals of palliative radiation and end of life care.
Because the Roy family couldn’t celebrate Christmas while Chris was in the hospital, they celebrated two weeks later at the Bird House. A group from UIHC staff council had decorated the Bird House for the holidays early in December and they agreed to wait until after the family’s Christmas to come and un-decorate. It was a wonderful gift to the Roy Family to be together one more time.
During much of his time at the Bird House, Chris took on the role of official greeter, welcoming almost every person who stopped by. He loved to talk to visitors and guests, learning their stories and telling many of his own. He shared many videos of his work and could often be found in the living room of the house talking and resting on the couch. While he was at the Bird House, he continued to receive accolades from his department and was given an award for his lifetime of work. In the end, for Chris and his family, to be together was the most important piece for them. Chris died peacefully with his family at his side, surrounded by many of the pictures from his life’s work.
Linda Kubu (at the Bird House 8/31/18–9/20/18)
The greatest joy of Linda Kubu’s life was her family. She loved being a mother and grandmother, caring for her three girls and their families. She attended every activity that she could: games, recitals, concerts, or other events. She remembered every special day and would celebrate each moment in her heart and her mind. She loved to cook and bake, sharing wonderful meals and treats with family and friends. With her husband, Jim, she raised her family, helped run their company, and enjoy life. She continued this after Jim’s death. Then cancer entered her life and changed her plans.
Multiple myeloma, blood cancer, was diagnosed on Linda’s birthday. She had a stem cell transplant but two years later declined a second transplant. Appointments at the UIHC revealed the harsh reality that she had low blood counts and that there were no other treatments possible.
She moved to the Bird House with her significant other and entered hospice care. Her daughters decorated the room with pictures and objects that reflected the many things that Linda liked to have close by. The family continued to fill their days with activities like puzzles and games and stories. Linda tried to enjoy as much as she could for as long as she could. On sunny days, she enjoyed trips outside in her wheelchair and she loved seeing all her grandchildren and her great-grandson. The day came finally when her energy was used up and Linda died peacefully with her family beside her.