After a 14-year battle with cancer, longtime Santa Barbara resident and sailing enthusiast Wann Rawles found safe harbor at VNA Health’s Serenity House. Wann spent his final days with family and loved ones in peace and comfort. For almost 3 months, Serenity House was home to not only Wann, but his beloved wife Judy, and their children and grandchildren.
Wann and Judy enjoyed a beautiful, 48-year marriage together. They raced on their boat “Psyche’s Song,” enjoyed the sea, and created a family of “his, hers and ours”. Even with cherished, shared memories in their hearts, and with the belief that their bond would be everlasting, it was important to them to maximize their time together in Wann’s final days.
“Wann’s move to Serenity House freed me from being his primary caregiver. It allowed me to simply be WITH him – to return to being soulmates again because the trained and experienced Visiting Nurses’ staff was providing the necessary nursing care, freeing me to spend our time connecting and enjoying being together – giving us precious moments and making memories that would have been impossible to experience were I still his primary caregiver,” shared Judy.
Many special “life moments” were captured during Wann’s days at Serenity House. Serenity House Chef Fabio prepared and presented special meals and a cake to celebrate Wann and Judy’s 48th wedding anniversary, and Judy’s birthday. On many occasions, Wann’s longtime canine companion, Miz Ballou, could be seen running down the hall with excitement into her beloved master’s room to pay a visit.
In addition, there were the simpler moments when Wann was serenaded by Therapeutic Harpist, Jeanne, offered Integrative Therapy for massage and aromatherapy to help increase his comfort, or calmed by helpful discussions with Medical Social Worker, Sam.
Judy summed up her feelings: “The trained professionals were gifts to the grieving family. They modeled respectful acceptance and compassion, gave voice to uncomfortable but honest feelings, encouraged us to share our laughter and our tears. Their example freed us to be ourselves, to open our hearts to each other and to truly be present as he left us. I am daily thankful that Serenity House exists, and deeply grateful for the Bereavement Team of trained grief counselors who continue their caring and availability for the family as it integrates the reality of the enormity of their loss. Thank you, VNA HEALTH. THANK YOU!”
After Wann’s passing, Serenity House welcomed another patient, Anna Banducci Johnson. She too, found refuge at the House after a brief and difficult battle with brain cancer. Anna had lived, and enjoyed, a full life; but at the time of her illness, she was widowed and living alone. Anna’s doctor referred her to VNA HEALTH’s trusted and compassionate home hospice team for her comfort and care. But after a series of complications it became clear that her independent spirit and doting friends could no longer provide the level of supportive care she physically needed at her home. For Anna, Serenity House was her only option to keep her safe and comfortable.
During Anna’s stay, she enjoyed a parade of visits from her many friends from near and far, and from her beloved grandchildren. Even with complex care, Anna was able to have as many visitors as she desired in tranquility and relaxation. She did not have to get out of bed and answer the door herself (a daily struggle she had at home). She had access to all of the amenities that Serenity House had to offer for her comfort. Even when eating became difficult, a dear friend and Rori’s Artisanal Creamery ensured this Italian signora had plenty of her favorite Nutella® ice cream to enjoy in her final days!
While Anna’s decline was swift and unexpected, she and her closest friends were comforted knowing that her final days were spent in a place of safety and serenity, surrounded by some of her most treasured things in life.
Wann and Anna entered Serenity House for different, yet equally important reasons. Wann needed a place to fully connect with family and loved ones in his final days. Anna, as a single woman, needed a safe haven where she could receive the necessary complex level of care, while continuing to enjoy her many friends who wished to say goodbye.
Serenity House is a tangible expression of the generosity and compassion of our community. You, along with many others, have helped provide over $2.4 million in charitable care over the past few years for patients and families needing the special care and comforts of Serenity House.
Because of your estate gift or will, patients like Wann and Anna, and their family and friends, have benefited from a safe haven of serenity and peace during a most challenging time. VNA Health’s Serenity House is indeed a special place.
Please take a moment today to make a gift to VNA Health that will allow every person facing end of life the same beautiful experiences that Wann and Anna received.
Please don’t hesitate to call the VNA Health Foundation at 805.690.6260 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.