PRINCETON — Some simply want a new dress or a set of dentures. Others, a visit with long-lost loved ones. For one, it was one last motorcycle ride. For another, to be sheriff for a day. For Anna Wysong, her Second Wind Dream was to see the ocean sunset for the first time.
“They just want to do this one more thing before they die,” says Roger Topping, administrator at Princeton Health Care Center, where residents’ dreams are coming true, thanks to a program called Second Wind Dreams.
“There’s not been a dream yet that we haven’t been able to tackle and fulfill,” he said.
PHCC works in conjunction with the organization, along with local volunteers and Center staff, to allow residents to meet their dreams.
Second Wind Dreams is an organization with a mission is to fulfill dreams of patients in eldercare and hospice care. The organization began in 1997 and is named for a novel of the same title by geriatric specialist P.K. Beville, who wrote of the colorful experiences of nursing home workers and residents.
PHCC is a lifetime member of Second Wind Dreams and, to date, has fulfilled 13 dreams for their residents, plus many in-house dreams such as makeovers.
“Some dreams are small and don’t cost a lot of money,” said Assistant Activities Director Tina Tickle. “One resident said, ‘If I could just smile again,’ so we worked with a local dentist to fund a pair of dentures for her.”
“You’d think we had given her a pot of gold. That’s how pleased she was,” Topping recalled.
Other dreams require more work and money. The first dream PHCC fulfilled in 2010 was for resident Anna Dishner, who had once enjoyed motorcycle trips with her husband. Her desire was to experience one last motorcycle ride. Hillbilly Cycle donated a cycle with a sidecar for the day. A group of 15 other riders joined in for a big send-off with balloons, roses, and a nephew from Kentucky.
Another resident longed to ride a four-wheeler once more through Big Creek Hollow. The staff located a side-by-side, and the mission included hours of riding the hollows and hills of McDowell County. The ride concluded with a family picnic and with Calvin, suffering from dementia, “burning it up on his harmonica,” said Topping.
The Center has a prized, locked cabinet for pictures of each big dream that has been fulfilled. Calvin’s picture shows a big grin and a thumbs-up.
Also pictured is Bobby, another resident with dementia.
Bobby always dreamed of being a police officer. His dream came true when he was able to be sheriff for the day, thanks Sheriff Don Meadows and his law enforcement team.
He received an official sheriff’s T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, hat, and badge.
He got to spend time in the sheriff’s office and speak on the two-way radio. Bobby still wears his sheriff’s hat throughout the center, threatening to arrest anyone who gets out of line.
Elsie, a resident who had retired after 26 years of teaching, asked to visit once more the school where she taught, Graham High School.
In the specially called teacher’s meeting, Elsie was pleased to discover several former students were now teachers there, thanks to her inspiration. The staff enjoyed eating cake and visiting with Elsie.
“It was simple, simple, simple,” says Topping, “but what it did for her and those teachers!”
Resident Eleanor had not seen her son in 30 years. Her dream was to see him again, but he lived in Delaware and did not have the financial means to visit. PHCC and Second Wind Dreams paid for a bus ticket, meals, a hotel room, and transportation around town so that she could see her son. The visit happened around Christmastime, and when Santa paid a visit, she tearfully told him, “This is the best gift I ever had!”
Anna Wysong, a quadriplegic, longed to visit the beach and see the sunrise and sunset from the ocean.
“People told me I should go visit the mountains, not the beach. But I can see beautiful mountains and all kinds of beautiful country within hours of where I am. I wanted to see the beach. In the movies, you always see people walking on the beach, shoes in hand, the waves slapping at their feet. I wanted to get my feet wet!” Anna said.
“My brothers would always go to the beach, and they’d come back and talk about how much fun they’d had,” said Anna. But her condition made the trip too difficult.
While at a conference, Tickle first heard about Second Wind Dreams and thought of Anna’s desire to go to the beach.
“She was the inspiration to be able to make a difference in somebody’s life,” said Tickle. “These are things we take for granted.”
In 2010, with the help of PHCC staff and Second Wind Dreams, Anna finally got her wish.
“It was a six-hour trip there, and it was raining,” Anna recalled. “I hadn’t slept much the night before because I was excited. My chair reclines, so, in the van on the way there, I was dozing. They took my picture and put a speech bubble on it that says ‘Dreaming of the beach.’”
Her first day at Virginia Beach was dreary, she recalled.
“We were supposed to take a boat out on the ocean to see the dolphins, but there were storms, and the water was too choppy. We opened up the door to the room. They got me a room where I had a view of the water, and I thought I could hear bagpipes. I thought that was crazy! But there was somebody down by the water playing bagpipes.”
Anna says when she first saw the water she couldn’t believe her eyes, “Holy Cow! You see pictures, and you see it in the movies, but it’s totally different to actually see the waves, clouds, and sunset than what you imagine.”
While at the beach, Anna and her family and friends visited the aquarium, where she remembered seeing otters and seals. She visited a dock to watch the cranes. She saw fighter jets flying overhead from the nearby naval base. And she had an old-time photo taken, dressed as a flapper.
“My mom was a poor sport and wouldn’t be in the picture!” she complained.
Anna has a memory book filled with pictures from her dream visit. Her picture also appears in the special display case, showing her in the special chair with big tires that was used to wheel her into the water.
Anna says her beach trip was definitely one of the highlights of her life. When asked what her next dream might be, she replied, “to get my kids and grandbabies together with me.”
The staff is working on fulfilling the next batch of dreams as soon as the weather warms up. One dream they’re preparing for is a female resident who dreams of a fishing trip in a boat. A group of ladies hopes to fulfill a group dream together, though they haven’t come up with the plan yet.
“I’ve heard them mention a cruise,” said Tickle.
Topping said the staff always pitches in to help make each dream come true, from volunteering for the activity to raising money to fund the wishes. When they built an addition onto the center, the old kitchen cabinets were recycled to make wooden snowmen crafts to sell. The staff also sells nachos and hot dogs to raise money for dreams. Often, dream recipients who pass away leave behind money for the dream fund to continue.
The hard work the staff contributes pays off in “warm, fuzzy feelings,” said Topping.
“The feeling you get seeing the smiles on [the residents’] faces, it makes it worthwhile, every bit of it,” said Topping.
“It helps the staff on the dementia unit too. Altzheimer’s is as cruel as it gets to people.”
Tickle says the dreams help the staff with their goal of enriching the residents’ lives as much as possible, “We spend a lot of time redirecting and trying to pull out of them what they can remember and just work with that the best we can.”
For more information on the Second Wind Dreams organization, visit www.secondwind.org.
For information on Princeton Health Care Center, or to donate to the dreams they fulfill, contact Roger Topping, administrator, or Debbie Burnett, activities director, at 304-431-4226.