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Carolyn Summerfield, Person

Carolyn Summerfield, Person

carolyn-summerfielAt Caring Circle, one of the words we have always struggled with is the word “patient.” There isn’t really another word in the English language that works in its place (believe us, we’ve tried). Sometimes we have to use it, and Carolyn Sommerfield is the perfect example of why we wish there were an alternative.

Just because someone is struggling with an illness, an injury, whatever it is that requires them to seek extra medical attention, doesn’t mean they lose their humanity. They are not just patients, but people, and it is times like these that the essence of their humanity shines through.

Carolyn Sommerfield is one of the most vibrantly alive people you will meet. She is warm and funny, and the type of person you can quickly become friends with. If you were just looking at her chart, you might never guess that: she lives alone, her husband has passed away, and her only family is in Houston, Texas. Carolyn hasn’t left her house in more than two years due to advanced lymphedema (swelling), and knees that cause her constant pain.

We met Carolyn when her physician referred her to our Palliative Care Program, to receive additional help with pain management. She was treated for lymphedema at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center, but eventually her knees became so bad that she couldn’t go out for treatment. She needed a primary physician who could come to her, so our HouseCalls program became involved. Soon after, Carolyn became a client of our Transitions program, and now has help with the little things she can’t do any more, like trips to the bank or the post office.

Carolyn is a perfect example of why we decided to use the name “Caring Circle” to represent the wide range of programs offered for quality of life care. She has been able to shift back and forth seamlessly between programs, even using three at once, to meet her needs. All of these programs, including hospice, focus on how to give someone the highest quality of life possible. Carolyn is already a pro in this area, and rather than let her circumstances dictate how she lives, she learns to work around them and find new ways to keep herself happy. When she began to lose movement in her legs, she decided to keep her hands busy creating poetry and artwork. She watches videos and sings, remaining grateful for what she still has.

As a social creature, being homebound is one of her biggest challenges, “It’s [difficult] today that it’s so beautiful, and the windows are open. I just want to go pick someone up and drive them around, but I can’t.” She says that for her, one of the main benefits of being a “person” at Caring Circle is the social aspect. “I really love some of these people,” she says. The visits she gets from Transitions, Housecalls, and Palliative Care keep her going. She loves to know when someone’s child is starting kindergarten and to chat with the doctors, “Who are so kind and interested in listening.” She enjoys that she is able to be part of the staff’s lives.

“These programs and people have meant the world to me. One staff member moved away to Illinois, and still comes back to visit me once per month.” It’s easy to see why. Carolyn Sommerfield (person), is an inspiration and a reminder of our goal at Caring Circle - a focus on quality moments. She’s a woman who, despite her own challenges, writes every night to “someone who needs encouragement.” We hope, by taking this next step in our history, that Caring Circle will be better able to serve people like Carolyn. Thank you for being on this journey with us, and thank you, Carolyn, for reminding us of what’s important!


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