Merry Hill was never one to complain or struggle with health problems. She worked at the Iroquois Resident Home as an LPN for 15 years. In 2014, Merry retired from her long standing position. However, she missed the staff and residents so much that she decided to come back in 2016 and work part time to help cover weekends and holidays.
During her time at the Iroquois Resident Home, anytime something unexpected came up (as they often did) and someone would come to her, she would stop and think about the best way to handle the situation. She would tell the person waiting for her answer “Just give me a minute.. let me get my ducks in a row”. Thus, it became quite the on-going joke with her. She was even give a gift of numerous rubber ducks by a co-worker before she retired!
Then, in October 2017, tragedy struck. After putting up with a persistent cough for a while, Merry decided it was time to see her doctor. Her cardiologist ordered a chest x-ray which showed an anomaly. Then a CT Scan revealed a malignancy in her lung. After further testing, it was determined that Merry had cancer of the stomach and lung.
Unfortunately, often times the treatment that is supposed to help make someone who has cancer get better, ends up making them feel worse. Chemotherapy can wreak havoc on a body, weakening the immune system and making it more difficult for the person to fight off infections and stay healthy. That is exactly what happened to Merry – her condition became so poor that she had to quit her work at the Iroquois Resident Home by November of 2017.
Fast forward to summer 2018, the chemotherapy is still taking a toll on her body. Merry went through two rounds of chemotherapy, her second round being immunotherapy (a type of chemo therapy that attempts to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer). However, her body reacted adversely to the immunotherapy and she developed severe shortness of breath – so severe in fact that while she was at her oncologist appointment to discuss her problem, the doctor called an ambulance to have her rushed to the Emergency Room!
Merry was hospitalized in the intensive care unit elsewhere with a diagnosis of pneumonia in both lungs. After being in the ICU for 17 days, she was quite fragile. The doctors were having a difficult time finding a good place for her to recover and even considered sending her to Joliet for treatment and therapy. Merry says that many local programs were attempted and unfortunately, facilities kept referring to her as high risk, pointing out the things she could not do, and turning her down.
Merry was starting to become discouraged. She said, “I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t doing anything because nobody was giving me the opportunity.” As a nurse she knew that, medically, she was receiving all the care she needed, but emotionally she was lacking the encouragement to continue. She decided to have a discussion with her doctors – more than anything she just wanted to come home. Having worked in the Iroquois Resident Home for so many years, it truly felt like home.
After speaking with the staff at the Iroquois Resident Home, they took on her case. At the previous facility, each time they would initiate therapy with her and take her for a walk, her oxygen would drop and they would tell her “You can’t do it.” She wasn’t getting exercise, she wasn’t eating, and she was getting worse. Merry was emotionally drained and said “I would have died, not for lack of medical care but simply failure to fly. I think too often people get caught in the crack and it’s failure to fly that kills them.”
Merry was a Resident at the Iroquois Resident Home for a mere three weeks. At the start of her pneumonia she was using 15 liters of oxygen daily to sustain her. Upon transport to IRH, she was down to 10 liters a day, but still unable to walk unassisted. She began therapy right away, and with the encouragement and emotional support that she had been lacking, she began to see recovery in sight.
The staff at the Resident Home remembered her ducks and brought her in a new line of rubber ducks to keep in her room during her stay. In her last week at the Iroquois Resident Home, Merry walked around inside the facility without assistance. Although she still needed to be on 2 liters of oxygen when she went home, she was certain that she would make a full recovery – she said, “I know I can do it!!”
Today, Merry still isn’t one to complain. She fights every day to overcome her obstacles and stay on the road to recovery. She is working with her doctors to find the best treatment for her cancer, but wants to remain as healthy as possible. Although some days it can be a struggle, Merry is keeping those “ducks in a row”. She is very grateful for the care and support of the staff of the Iroquois Resident Home. “How do you say thank you to someone who saves your life?”