IN 2015, Juanita Ortiz was in denial when her 30-year-old son, Ben Aguirre, went to Serenity House. Ben’s palliative care physician, Dr. Michael Kearney, shared the shattering reality that Ben’s passing would likely be be a matter of weeks.
In 2011, Serenity House opened its doors on a cliff overlooking Santa Barbara to patients and families in need of a comfortable home at end of life. Since then, Serenity House has helped hundreds of individuals, regardless of age, background or socio-economic status, find peace and dignity during a time of life that is frightening and unknown. One such patient was Benjamin Aguirre, whose devoted mother, Juanita Ortiz, reflects often on their wonderful experience during a tragic health crisis.
Ben was a healthy baby, child, and adult. On August 11, 2015, at the age of 30 and after having some issues, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and immediately admitted to Cottage Hospital where he started his chemotherapy. After numerous visits to the emergency room, admissions to the hospital for weeks at a time, chemo, radiation, two surgeries, and enduring so much pain, we were told there was nothing else that could be done for him.
Unfortunately, because of the high doses of pain medication, Ben was unable to come home and was admitted at Serenity House, the next best thing to being at home.
Ben’s first words were, “It’s so nice and quiet here.” No one walking up and down the halls or hearing doors open and close in the hospital. He said it was very peaceful, and even enjoyed the food there; each day he would tell me about what he ate.
Ben was a big joker and loved joking with the staff. The staff tended to him so well and they treated him like their son. They helped make it feel even more like home; decorating the room and bedside table with tapestry and frames. Ben was at Serenity House for a total of five weeks. I also stayed with him for his final three weeks. They made sure I was comfortable, had enough blankets and pillows, and anything else I needed.
Ben even celebrated his 31st birthday at Serenity House right after attending his grandfather’s funeral. With his grandfather’s funeral service and a strict ongoing detox diet, Ben didn’t think there would be a birthday celebration. But we were all able to gather in his room with an organic cake made by a friend and surprise him with one last celebration together. It was a precious moment.
Ben enjoyed his final days on the patio laying in the sunlight. His sister Xenia, a talented musician, even provided her own music therapy by composing a beautiful tribute song for Ben that she played to him on the guitar in the silent privacy of his room and patio. Ben passed in tranquility on June 27, 2015 at Serenity House in room 101, the Nancy & Thomas Crawford, Jr. Room.
The staff at Serenity House is very kind, loving, patient, and very attentive to their patients as well as their families. I could not have asked for a better place for my son Ben to spend the last weeks of his life.
If you have any questions, please contact our VNA Health Foundation at 805-690-6290 or by email at email@example.com.