A Second Chance at Life: Paula’s Journey with Regional Hospice

In the heart of Danbury, Connecticut, Regional Hospice became a haven for Dr. Paula Secondo, a Professor of Chemistry for 27 years. Paula was facing a terminal cancer diagnosis that left her extremely weak and fragile and in a state of unbearable pain and suffering.

“The pain just becomes too much to bear.  It’s all-consuming, and you just want it to stop,” Paula recalls, reflecting on the days before being admitted to Regional Hospice’s Center for Comfort Care & Healing.

When the palliative care treatment Paula was receiving failed to manage her escalating pain, she needed an alternative. Paula had been under the care of her oncologist Dr. Robert Kloss, Chief Medical Officer of Regional Hospice, who uttered words that would forever change her perspective on hospice: “You can go to hospice, but you don’t have to stay there.”  At the time, Paula wasn’t really sure what he meant, but she would soon find out.

Arriving at Regional Hospice in early December, Paula had resigned herself to “being done with everything.” Her sole focus was to escape the excruciating pain. She believed she had come there to die.  Yet, within a couple weeks of receiving expert, loving care from the staff at Regional Hospice, Paula’s pain was under control.  Her pain levels went from 8 and 9 to 1 and 2. Her appetite slowly returned.  She was not just awake; she was lucid.

As she became stronger and stronger, part of Paula’s journey included gentle touch massage, sound healing and reiki, some of the healing arts services offered by the staff that are meant to provide additional comfort, peace and calming to patients.

The transformation Paula experienced at Regional Hospice was beautiful and inspirational for our staff to witness. With renewed strength and her Mom, Karol, and Uncle Karl right by her side, her energy levels perked up, she was fully engaged with staff, she emerged from her bed, and eventually started doing laps around the facility – to everyone’s delight! 

As Paula’s physical and mental state continued to improve, she eventually made the decision to return home to Kansas and begin Round 2 of her chemo treatments.

As Paula reflected on her time at Regional Hospice, she credits not only the expert pain management she received, but also the nutritional care from the dedicated kitchen staff who offered healthy, delicious, gluten-free options, the expert and compassionate CNA and nursing care, the calming healing arts therapies and many other special touches from the staff that contributed to her holistic healing. She noted that the staff at Regional Hospice served not just as caregivers but as educators, empowering Paula to care for herself.

“It’s the people that make this place what it is.  They all have a calling and are exactly where they need to be.  I never viewed hospice as a place where you could recover, but if it wasn’t for Regional Hospice, I wouldn’t be able to start Round 2 of my treatments,” Paula expressed, acknowledging the profound impact of the care she received.

Regional Hospice, in Paula’s eyes, is more than a hospice care facility; it’s a place that looks at individuals holistically, beyond their illnesses. Paula’s journey serves as a testament to the life-changing impact Regional Hospice has on our patients and their loved ones and we are truly honored to do this sacred work.

Regional Hospice’s Center Administrator, Colleen Fleming-Damon, PhD, APRN, ACHPN, FT, CNE, said “Before Paula was discharged from Regional Hospice Center for Comfort Care and Healing, she gifted us with ceramic birds for the Center. We studied each bird until we came to one, and she exclaimed, “This one is the bluebird of happiness.” Her face glowed with her brilliant smile, and what came to my mind was a poem written by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is a thing with feathers

that perches in the soul.

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.”

On behalf of the staff of Regional Hospice Center for Comfort Care and Healing, we wish Paula continued healing, hope and happiness.