There Really is No Place Like Home

Return to Winston Park means so much to Kerry and Joyce Townson

By Kristian Partington

Kerry Townson looks back a couple of weeks to the beginning of July when her mother, Joyce, lay in a hospital bed, unable to open her eyes or speak. Complications following a head injury a few months back had flared up and, according to all the wisdom of the medical team around her, Joyce was not going to get better. Palliative care was the only plan, aside from a complicated surgery that might, at best, offer her a few more months of life.

As soon as the word palliative found breath, Kerry was on the phone with Mike Dickin, the assistant general manager at The Village of Winston Park. Her mother had lived there for more than two years – it is her home and Kerry wouldn’t accept that her mother’s final days would be spent in a strange place.

Mike said Joyce’s room would be waiting, her hot-pink bed sheets clean and in place. 

“I’m holding her hand,” Kerry recalls, “and I said: ‘Mom, we’re working at getting you back to Winston Park, so you’re going to be going home.’ ” Prior to those words, her mother had been in a practical coma, Kerry says, but at the mention of going home, her mother cried out.

“I thought, oh my gosh, did I say the wrong thing?”

That afternoon, the transfer back to Winston Park was approved, though Kerry had to sign off on liability, for it was quite possible that her mother wouldn’t survive the trip. Mike had already arranged it so that no matter what happened, Joyce would be brought into her own bed in the village.

Once again, Joyce began to cry out loud when told about moving home, even though she was “semi-comatose,” as Kerry says.

“I was holding her hand and I said, ‘Mom, if you want to go home you squeeze my hand.’ Well, I had my thumb in the palm of her hand and she squeezed it as hard as she could. She couldn’t talk, but she just squeezed.”

Her room was set up just as it should’ve been when Joyce arrived, and team members immediately began arriving to welcome her home.  ‘Oh Joyce, it’s good to see you,’ someone said. “It’s good to see you, too,” came a reply. Kerry says her mother’s eyes were wide open and the fact that she was speaking was much more than anyone could’ve expected.

Joyce began to swallow a bit of cranberry juice, happy to quench her thirst once again and two weeks later, she continues to improve. Kerry is realistic in her expectations, yet she’s open to all possibilities. In the past two years, she and her mother would often have coffee together in the village café – a quick visit on Kerry’s way home from work.  Each extra day they spend together now is a gift, and it means so much to know that her mother is filled with contentment, surrounded by people who genuinely care for her.

“We don’t really know where we’re going from here but she’s home,” Kerry says. “She came back and that meant more to her than anything else.”