When ten year-old Alex Cain’s Caris Healthcare clinical team asked him what was important in his life, he told them he loved to swim and go to water parks. Realizing that time was precious, Jennifer Smith, Alex’s social worker, immediately sprang to action and applied for a National Hospice Foundation Lighthouse of Hope Fund grant. In January, Alex and his family traveled to Wilderness of the Smokies, an indoor water park in Tennessee, for a weekend of fun in the water.
Alex was diagnosed with hepatopulmonary syndrome and cirrhosis of the liver. He is on continuous oxygen as his disease makes it extremely difficult to breathe. He’s home- schooled now and misses attending school and getting out of the house. The trip to the water park was a dream come true – an opportunity for Alex to feel normal again and forget about being a hospice patient, even for a little while.
The clinical team did not accompany Alex to the waterpark but Jennifer did go ahead of time to make all the necessary arrangements. Although he was only able to remove his oxygen for a brief time and took several rest breaks, Alex and his family enjoyed the day and didn’t want to leave!
“They had a great time,” Jennifer says. “They were thankful for the experience as they would not be able to afford the trip themselves. They were grateful for the family time.”
Caris Healthcare, a multi-state hospice provider, has a program called ‘The Three Most Important Things’. It is based on the question, “What are the three most important things we need to know about you to provide excellent care?” It was through this program that Alex’s desire to swim again came to light.
“It is always humbling to see a wish come true for one of our patients,” Jennifer says. “It was a gift to our staff to see Alex’s huge smile in the pictures at the water park. Alex’s parents have been under a tremendous amount of stress so to be able to give them the gift of getting away with their family for the weekend was also a gift to our staff.”
The NHF Lighthouse of Hope Fund offers children and adults with a life-limiting illness, such as cancer, heart failure, liver disease, end-stage renal disease and ALS the chance to take a break by allowing them to have their wishes and dreams come true. Such dreams – big or small, can help people with life-limiting illness improve the quality of their lives in ways medicine alone cannot.
Learn more about the NHF Lighthouse of Hope Fund.