Tickling the insides

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Irene Deberry_Sardis Oaks

Irene Deberry

It doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s just something about a birthday cupcake that will tickle your insides and make you smile.  Oh sure, there are people who profess to hate their birthdays.  But I simply can’t believe that the act of blowing out a candle that sits atop a delicious and perfectly proportioned tiny cake could make someone actually mad.

And because at HPCCR we know the simple joy that a cupcake can bring on one’s natal anniversary, we try to make sure our patients feel loved on their day.  Case in point: back in July, our volunteer department was able to procure a dozen cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of Irene Deberry, one of our patients living at a skilled nursing facility.  Irene was turning 90, a huge milestone by anyone’s account, and her family was coming into town to help her celebrate.  Because Irene is a woman definitely worth celebrating.

Irene was a fiercely independent, southern woman who lived alone until she fell and broke her arm in March last year.  Her injury required surgery and while they were inserting the breathing tube for the general anesthesia, they discovered a mass in her throat.  A cancer diagnosis soon followed, along with some worsening symptoms of dementia.  Knowing that she could no longer live at home, Irene was moved to Sardis Oaks skilled nursing facility, where she currently resides.

In March, after having quickly diagnosed Irene’s cancer, the doctors gave her a feeding tube so that she wouldn’t have to swallow food.  But that didn’t seem to sit well with Irene — she lost weight and was not happy.  She was so hungry that she ended up taking food off of the nurse’s cart.  After conversations with Irene’s family and her doctors, it was agreed that they would remove the feeding tube and let her eat solid food.

Irene hasn’t looked back.  She’s gained some weight back and is certainly happier.  And when presented with cupcakes by her hospice team on the day before her birthday, she did not hesitate.  Nor did she decline them the next day when her family arrived and more cupcakes were passed around.

Those cupcakes were a celebration of Irene’s birthday, sure.  But they were more than that.  They were a celebration of her life and her ability to still enjoy it, despite dementia and a terminal illness.  It was a celebration of making her wishes known so that she could enjoy tiny, delicious cakes to acknowledge the day she was born.  And when you look at that face, you just know that those cupcakes tickled her insides all the way down.

Special thanks to the HPCCR volunteer department (especially Crystal England) as well as Dan Morris, Irene’s social worker and Jonnie Waldo, Irene’s loving companionship volunteer.  They had a party for Irene at Sardis Oaks the day before her birthday, complete with said cupcakes, flowers, and cards.  Irene could certainly feel the love!  

Explore posts in the same categories: cancer, dementia, long-term care, volunteering

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