Since becoming ill with terminal lung cancer, Ted Nelson has read a lot of books.
The 87-year-old has trouble breathing, which makes it difficult to leave the house. But when his St. Charles Hospice social worker Melissa Adams discovered his love of books she started bringing him anything she thought he would like.
“I read novels, mysteries, mostly history,” Nelson said. “I find myself in history books or places I’ve been – that’s pretty interesting.”
Nelson is a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. His life has been filled with adventures from working as a logger to a miner to a truck mechanic and raising 10 kids along the way.
“I’ve been a pilot on a ship. I flew airplanes. I worked underground,” Nelson said. “The only thing I didn’t get to do was drive a freight train.”
He moved to Prineville from California about a year ago to live with his son and his family and became a patient with St. Charles Hospice soon after.
“You just say anything and it’s done,” Nelson said of his hospice caregivers. “You don’t even have to say anything.”
During one visit to his home, Adams discovered that Nelson’s hospital bed wasn’t functioning correctly. She called in help from the durable medical equipment company and then crawled underneath to see if she could fix it herself. She never knows what her job will entail on any given day, but she enjoys going the extra mile to make sure her patients are comfortable.
“I was in California, not exactly well,” Nelson said. “Since coming here, I’ve had nothing but care. It just comes through the door flying at me for some reason. I’m at peace. I really don’t have a damn thing to worry about.”
Recently, Adams arranged to have Prineville author Rick Steber visit Nelson, read from one of his books and sign a copy. Steber’s books were some of the many that Adams had brought for Nelson to read and he was thrilled to see the cowboy standing in his doorway.
The visit was just one of many acts of caring from his St. Charles Hospice team that Nelson said was a little hard to comprehend. But for Adams, the idea of bringing joy to her patients is pretty simply the right thing to do.
“You always said the smile is the best medicine,” Adams said to Nelson. “It’s the relationship.”
“It really is,” he replied.