Donna and Joe Elliott’s love story began 56 years ago at a bus stop. Joe, an avid baseball player, was just 13 years old. Donna, a shy young girl from Chepachet, was 11.
“I remember saying to Donna on our ride one morning, ‘What would you say if I asked you to marry me?’” Joe shares with a wink, as he and Donna sit in their living room reminiscing.
Donna smiles at the memory. “Of course, I told him if he asked me, I would say yes.”
They married right after high school and were blessed with two sons and a daughter, and later two grandsons and a great-granddaughter. Today their children live close by and visit often for dinner, to watch football, or just to spend time together.
Despite trying times, their love has never wavered because they focus on what matters most—their time together.
Donna and Joe’s love story also includes the challenges of ongoing health issues. Joe’s heart was compromised in childhood by rheumatic fever, and in later years he survived a heart attack and heart transplant. Legally blind since birth, Donna has undergone three spine surgeries and four orthopedic surgeries.
Despite trying times, their love has never wavered because they focus on what matters most—their time together. Yet Donna and Joe—best friends who still refer to each other as darling, sweetie and babe—knew they couldn’t handle their health needs alone.
The Elliotts first reached out to HopeHealth Visiting Nurse in 2013 after Joe’s hip replacement surgery. This support they received from the visiting nurse team made it possible for Joe to leave the rehab center and move back home with Donna.
“The physical therapist was a godsend and got him back on his feet—not quickly, but slowly and steadily so that he truly healed. After that, I would not have called anyone else when I had my surgeries,” says Donna.
The Elliotts have relied on HopeHealth through every medical procedure and health crisis over the last six years. Donna explains, “HopeHealth has been with us during some of the most difficult times in our lives. They have given us complete emotional and physical support.”
Unexpected trips to the ER, long waits at hospitals, and taking more than 1,000 pills a month was not how Joe wanted to spend this part of his life.
Last year, Joe’s health took a drastic turn with the rare deterioration of his trachea. The visiting nurse team met with the Elliotts and asked what their wishes were for Joe’s care and quality of life.
Joe decided he no longer wanted to endure life-saving measures. He and Donna agreed that unexpected trips to the ER, long waits at hospitals, and taking more than 1,000 pills a month was not how he wanted to spend this part of his life.
Donna shared with their visiting nurse that she had promised to care for Joe at home, if possible. Joe’s nurse discussed it with other members of the care team, and they suggested it was time to transition Joe from palliative support to hospice care at home.
At first, Donna was crushed. “I thought this was a death sentence. But the care team explained that hospice is not just end-of-life care but providing the best care for Joe and our family, whatever that means to us.”
“Hospice was a great move,” Joe says confidently. “Now Donna and I have more quality time together.”
After so many years of support from HopeHealth, Donna continues to value the level of care they can access.
“Late one Sunday evening, Joe was in such a bad way, I had to call the HopeHealth 24-hour hotline. I figured I would get an answering service, but an actual nurse took my call. She walked me through everything, and she calmed me and Joe down,” Donna explains.
She was even more impressed when that same nurse called her the next morning, with additional information and a follow-up plan. “It really helps to have that continuity,” Donna says.
Donna and Joe know some people might think hospice care means giving up control, but they view this very differently.
“It was a great move,” Joe says confidently. “Now Donna and I have more quality time together.”
Donna agrees, “Now our time is us centered and not medically centered so we’re able to do the things we’ve always done together, like watch our favorite TV shows and have dinner together. I can cook Joe’s favorite meals like shepherd’s pie and lasagna.”
She continues, taking Joe’s hand: “When we had been married only a month, my husband said, ‘happy anniversary, love.’ We still celebrate our anniversary every month. It is the little things that matter most.”
Do you have questions about hospice care? Ask us at (844) 671-HOPE or Information@HopeHealthCo.org.