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Trillium House celebrates first hospice grad

Recent Trillium House hospice graduate Bob Barry, front, left, is pictured during a going-away party held for him at Trillium House. Barry, who arrived at the Trillium House last summer, became the nonprofit hospice house’s first graduate in late March, as his health had improved to the point where he could move in with his brother in North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of the Trillium House)

MARQUETTE — “Hospice isn’t about dying, it’s about living.”

This phrase perhaps epitomizes the story of the Trillium House’s first hospice graduate.

Bob Barry, who suffers from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, came to the Trillium House last summer to receive hospice care, which involves a team of professionals who provide compassionate and comprehensive care for those with a life-limiting diagnosis.

“They helped a lot by just taking care of me when I was ill, because I couldn’t take care of myself,” Barry said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

Since arriving at the Trillium House, Barry’s health improved so much that he graduated from hospice in late March and moved to live with his brother in North Carolina.

“It’s just a real celebration and success story when someone does go home,” Trillium House Manager Alicia Burgess said.

The Trillium House, an eight-room hospice house located at 1144 Northland Drive in Marquette that opened its doors last summer, seeks to provide a homelike environment for people receiving hospice care, which made Barry feel more comfortable and independent.

“They let me do what I could do. That was a big plus. If I could do things, they let me do it,” Barry said. “It was just like living at home. I could go outside, I could do anything I pleased.”

While many people receive hospice care at their homes, it’s not always safe, comfortable or feasible for some individuals to do so, Trillium House Executive Director Pat Bray said.

This is where hospice houses such as the Trillium House come in, he said, as residents receive care at the house by a hospice agency of their choosing.

The Trillium House also has its own staff members who become “like extended family members,” providing personal daily care, meals, assistance with medications, laundry and housekeeping services, Bray said.

“We basically become the resident’s home,” he said.

When Barry first arrived at the Trillium House last summer, his prognosis was poor and his condition seemed severely life-limiting at the time. Furthermore, adapting to his new environment was challenging, as he was disoriented due to his condition and used to being independent.

But as Barry settled in, things began to turn around.

He began to develop close relationships with staff and friendships with other residents, offering them help and support.

“He got to be friends with some of the other residents we had at the time,” Bray said. “And it was good for them to have the opportunity to share with somebody who is in the same situation.”

Barry’s condition gradually improved while he received supportive care, as “he had the emotional support and friendships, his medications were managed, he was eating,” Burgess said.

During his time at the Trillium House, Barry “saw himself becoming a lot like what he was before,” Bray said.

Eventually, Barry got to the point where he was able to do many activities independently, even going the extra mile to help staff with projects around the facility and keep an eye out for other residents who may need a helping hand.

“He saw himself as part of the team,” Bray said. “He really felt grateful and he tried to do everything he could to help out.”

With such improvements in his health and well-being, Barry graduated from hospice and enjoyed a going-away party with Trillium House staff and residents before his departure.

He arrived in North Carolina on April 1 to start a new journey, living with his brother and enjoying a warmer climate, which “feels great,” Barry said.

It’s important to recognize that “without the support of the community, (Barry) could not have been in a place like this,” Bray said, as many have donated to the nonprofit Trillium House to help support its opening, operating costs and assist patients with paying for their stay.

“We’ve been able to discount it for 75% of the residents because people are supporting us through just donations to make sure that those who need our help can come,” he said. “We get about half of what it costs to operate just through donations.”

Bray is grateful for the many volunteers and donors who have stepped forward to make a difference in the lives of local hospice patients.

Since it opened nearly a year ago, the Trillium House has already served over 30 residents from Marquette, Alger, Delta and Dickinson counties, Bray said.

“We’ve transitioned from being a great idea to being a functioning nonprofit that’s going to serve this community for a very long time,” he said. “The support has been amazing.”

For those who would like to support the Trillium House’s mission, volunteers and donations are always appreciated, Bray said, noting the house has a list of needed supplies regularly updated on its website and Facebook page.

For more information on Trillium House, visit its Facebook page, trilliumhospicehouse.org or call 906-264-5026.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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