A few months ago, Jeff and Susan Bridges celebrated the wedding of their daughter Hayley. There was a time that Jeff was not sure he could walk Hayley down the aisle or enjoy that shared moment of their father-daughter dance.
Jeff was undergoing treatment for lymphoma cancer, and before he could be vaccinated, he contracted COVID-19 in January.
For months, Jeff could not walk without assistance, but he kept focused on the summer wedding milestone throughout his recovery. The Bridges’ story, like thousands of others this year, illustrates how VNA Health is there for families in our community, helping every person to live with health and dignity. Jeff and Susan would like to share with you how VNA Health helped Jeff reach his goal so that his family could celebrate as they had dreamed.
VNA Let’s start with WHY did you choose VNA Health as one of your medical partners to help you reach your goal?
JEFF When I was in Cottage Hospital with COVID-19, I was too sick to make any decisions about my healthcare. My wife Susan and my physician made the great choice to contact VNA Health on my behalf. Susan’s experiences with VNA were all very positive, so she chose them for me. I am grateful for the quality of care I received from my healthcare team. What a blessing!
VNA We take the ability to breathe and walk as a given. How did our therapists and nurses help you get through it and recover?
JEFF My medical care team — admit nurse Yasmine Stone, O2 management nurse Tanya Heaton, occupational therapist Ryan Lewis, and physical therapist Zach Wermers — helped me immensely. I am grateful for their support.
I want to give Zach a special shout out. He helped me achieve my two goals: walking my daughter down the aisle at her wedding and dancing with her without oxygen. As an actor, I wanted to rehearse with Zach, and we worked diligently to make this a reality on Hayley and Justin’s special day.
Zach continues to help me with my physical therapy. We meet three times a week. If those meetings were not scheduled, I doubt I would be walking in the mountains of Montana today.
It has also been reassuring in my recovery to know that I had access to medical equipment from the Loan Closet. I was able to use the loaner equipment, and also donated some of the equipment we had purchased back to the Loan Closet. What an incredible free service they provide for our community.
VNA Susan, as wife and mother, what were your goals for Jeff’s recovery?
SUSAN My dream was to see Jeff get out of bed, walk, and live a normal life again. I believe his care team from VNA absolutely supported him in reaching these goals. To watch Jeff walk our daughter Hayley down the aisle on her wedding day and dance the father-daughter dance was a true joy. I didn’t know if Jeff would be able to experience these things. Jeff and Zach’s hard work and determination over months of physical therapy paid off.
VNA Many people don’t know that we’ve taken care of COVID patients at home, so we’d like to help them understand how that can safely happen. How was it navigating therapy at home in a COVID environment?
SUSAN Everyone was very careful and followed protocol. This included masks, gloves, and vaccinations. We felt comfortable and confident that VNA would protect our health and safety. We all remained healthy during our time caring for Jeff.
VNA What did it mean to the family to have Susan named as the Honored Mother at our 2012 Mother’s Day Luncheon?
SUSAN It was very special to be acknowledged at VNA’s Mother’s Day Luncheon. My family was delighted. I was especially appreciative because my mother Patricia Hansen was able to join me that day. This was the last Mother’s Day I was able to celebrate with her.
It meant so much to share that day with my mother and my three daughters — Isabelle, Jessie, and Hayley — and my granddaughter Grace. It was a wonderful moment to have four generations of women in my family come together, and touching for Jeff to see them honoring me.
JEFF I was excited to have my wife Sue recognized in this way. She has cared for all of us over the years, including her mother, children, our grandchildren, and me. It meant so much to me to see her acknowledged in this way.
VNA Prior to this medical experience, what is your family’s history with VNA Health?
JEFF We found out about VNA Health through our neighbor and friend Jane Habermann. Sue called on VNA when her mom was recovering from surgery and needed nursing staff to care for her during her stay with us in Santa Barbara. We used the Loan Closet to borrow medical equipment for her during this time. VNA was wonderful and Patricia loved knowing that someone pleasant, helpful, and competent would be supporting her during her recovery. It was comforting for us to know that she was getting the best care.
VNA What are one or two key things you’d like to share about VNA Health that could benefit other families in need?
SUSAN AND JEFF People should know that VNA Health provides many services, including exceptional nursing, respiratory therapy, palliative, and hospice care. They collaborate with local doctors, Cottage Health, and Sansum Clinic. Some programs are available at no cost to help patients and their families; many of their services are covered through insurance. We felt very supported by VNA Health, our physician Dr. Babji Mesipam, and an army of doctors during a challenging time. They were there for us.
We appreciate Jeff and Susan for sharing their challenges and triumphs, and choosing VNA Health to be one of their partners through this journey.
Celebrating milestones is important because they bind us together, bring us joy, and remind us of our achievements. They give us reason to keep going, and are important to our health and wellbeing.
Thank you for your generous support of our trusted care that helps families celebrate together and live their best life. Your kindness truly makes a difference — especially during these very challenging times. Join us in bringing joy and health to your friends, neighbors, and family by making a gift to VNA Health today.
In health and gratitude,
Rebecca Benard, MBA
VNA Health Foundation Executive Director