Inspired by a resident’s determination

I’m going to share with you a brief story about an incredible nursing home resident. You may know her well.

Kathleen Mears, who has written a weekly blog for this publication since 2008, always provides her unique experiences and insights without holding back. Some stories are funny—like the time an aide washed Kathleen’s bag of dirt. And some provoke deeper reflection—like her description of the loneliness felt by young residents.

However, there’s one particular story she hasn’t told you. I’m probably about to break some unwritten rules between editor and author, but I can’t help it, and I don’t think she would mind.

You may have read this week’s blog about Kathleen’s ordeal in isolation precautions after coming down with pneumonia, a UTI and a kidney stone. And as you may also know, Kathleen is an incomplete quadriplegic nursing home resident who depends on caregivers for assistance with her activities of daily living, uses a power wheelchair and writes her blogs verbally through dictation software.

While Kathleen was ill last week, living in a temporary location to ride out her 10 days in isolation, she did not have computer access. Yet she did not want to go two weeks without writing her blog. So she did what anyone else in her situation would have done: She called her personal caregiver and spoke her blog over the phone.  

Come again?

Yes, that’s right—she composed and dictated her blog without having a computer in front of her. While being horribly sick.

Over the years, we’ve received numerous emails and comments about how Kathleen inspires others. This is the story that inspires me. I’ve fielded hundreds of manuscripts from contributors in my time at Long-Term Living, sometimes hearing excuses as to why a deadline couldn’t be met, a promise to come through not honored. We’re all professionals, and we’re all busy people—this I know all too well. Yet there’s something transcendent about a sick nursing home resident feeling a sense of duty to her editors, to her readers, that puts this job in perspective.

I’ll always understand the pressure our authors experience when writing their contributions—typically at our request—while dealing with whatever strains their jobs place upon them. As evidenced by Kathleen, life presents unexpected circumstances. But the next time I feel too overburdened to do something, I’ll remember Kathleen’s determination, and proceed to do my best.

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