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Jacob’s Voice

A cruel disease had stolen Jacob’s voice, but generous Pathways donors gave it back.

Jacob had never let his illness or wheelchair hold him back; he had been active in his faith congregation, attended concerts when he could, and was often the life of the party—he was a talker.  Now at 67, the degenerative disease that had been chipping away at his health for years was isolating him; understandably, depression followed.

When his hospice nurse, Wendy, first met him she found a bright, alert man too weak to walk, dress or feed himself.  With no relatives to help, Jacob was living in a nursing home so his wife Marina could continue working.  She visited every day after work.

Friendly small talk was pretty one-sided because Jacob could barely whisper, too softly to be heard.  Eventually, many people didn’t bother talking to him at all.  His vibrant mind was imprisoned by his failing muscles.

At their regular meeting the hospice team discussed ideas for helping Jacob communicate.  This seemed like the best way to improve his quality of life.  While his nurse, Wendy, was explaining that Jacob was too weak to write or point to letters on a board, Jacob’s chaplain piped up with an idea: how about an amplifier!

Wendy talked to Marina and Jacob about the idea; they were excited to try, but $300 for the equipment was a stretch financially.  Years of illness had gobbled up their savings.

This is where Pathways donors entered the picture—people whose hearts are filled with compassion and kindness toward those in need.  Pathways’ Wishes and Needs (WAND) fund, supported by donors, came to the rescue.  Within 48 hours Jacob was wearing a headset and making up for lost time—with a word for anyone who came in his room.

The fog of depression that had blanketed Jacob began to lift, and although almost paralyzed by his uncooperative muscles, he clearly had resumed his former zest for life.  Eventually, Jacob was discharged from hospice because he wanted to pursue experimental treatments.  But he was grateful beyond measure for the “little miracle” our donors had bestowed on him.

A few months later we received a letter from Marina telling us that a short time after he left hospice Jacob was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia where he died; she was at his side.

Although she thanked us for the kindness we had shown to Jacob, she said her real purpose in writing was to thank the anonymous benefactors who gave him back his voice for the most precious months of their long marriage. “It seems we are each other’s angels,” she wrote.