Reading stories of others caring for a loved one can help you connect and relate your experience to those on a similar journey. It’s not always easy, but caregivers are both proud of their care and happy to do it. We reached out to you, real caregivers, and have collected some of your incredible journeys to share with each other to connect. This is Monica’s story.

Monica grew up the only child of Mardy, who survived the horrors of war and dictatorship in Germany and immigrated to America in 1952. Mardy became a successful costume designer, following in her father’s footsteps as a European tailor.

Throughout life, Mardy taught Monica a spirit of hard work, and that service and integrity are important character traits. 

Image of Monica and Mardy volunteering

Those lessons have led Monica to pursue a career of environmental and humanitarian consulting. They have also led her to be a passionate caregiver for Mardy. One day, Mardy went to see a pulmonologist for coughing fits she’d been having. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics.

Less than a week later, Mardy started experiencing severe chest pain behind her right lung. She could not move. She went back to the hospital reluctantly, and again, tests revealed she had pneumonia.

Mardy wanted to return to work projects she’d begun at home, rather than stay at the hospital. She returned home, but as soon as her project was finished, Mardy felt a snap in her chest and had more intense pain than before.

She had fractured her rib cage – and more tests revealed she had stage four lung cancer that had spread.

“I was shocked,” Monica said. “I had not seen any signs of stages before. They told me she could go at any time, she was so weak. But she kept defying the odds.”

Monica had not heard of Kindred Hospital when Mardy was referred there to help her manage her oxygen support, improve her nutrition and gain strength. Monica’s father had battled leukemia two years before, and she became familiar with many of the healthcare facilities in the area.

“My fears were immediately erased,” Monica said. “One of the things I’ve noticed about the staff is how they communicate with seniors. Seniors want to be active and do things on their own. They don’t want to be a burden. You have to talk to them differently – it’s more than telling them they’re not a burden, that’s not enough.”

Mardy’s upbringing in Germany caused her to have anxiety about being trapped and not having enough oxygen. Monica said the care team took the time to understand what happened in Mardy’s life to cause this anxiety and develop a plan to help her breathe better. They also were able to troubleshoot issues with her breathing tube that led to problems for Mardy with eating – which helped improve nutrition.

“The attention to detail was amazing,” Monica said. “I was so grateful because no one had put these things together before.”

Mardy has become more alert, more comfortable.

“She was so active just a few weeks before the hospital, and lying in bed is tremendously annoying for her,” Monica said. “They’re noticing these things and it’s helping to ease her pain and make her more comfortable.

Monica said that making care decisions for her mother has center around removing fear of losing control.

“Always put yourself in their position. Think ‘If I’m my mom, what’s important to me?’ and that’s the key,” Monica said. “Just do the best you can, and that’s hard because you criticize yourself and say ‘I should have done this, or this, or this’.”

Monica is looking forward to getting Mardy to the next level of care, where they can begin working with Mardy’s oncology team. She’s also looking forward to allowing Mardy to start doing the things she loves again, such as gardening. Monica has been tending to Mardy’s garden and hopes it will look just as she left it.

“She’ll also want to go to Red Hot Canyon and meditate,” Monica said. “All these things we were in the midst of doing, with the care she’s receiving, those things are now possible. In the beginning I wasn’t sure. She went to the edge and she’s come back even stronger.”

Monica began taping conversations with Mardy a few years ago, and now she has published those musings in a book called Storms in the Clouds Conversations with My Mom. She details Mardy’s remarkable journey, and how impactful she’s been in Monica’s life.

If you’re caring for a loved one, let others know your advice in the comments below. If you are looking for care options for yourself or a loved one and have questions about if Kindred can help, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak to a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week.