Finding a Lifeline to Hope and Stability

Brian, 42, was born with Marfan syndrome, a disorder that can cause cardiovascular and skeletal problems, but so far, his condition hadn’t slowed him down. In addition to his job as IT director for a home construction company, he was the strong, stable center of his family—three boys and his wife, Janell, 38, who struggled with severe depression. But all that changed in November 2019 when a sudden stroke left Brian unable to work, speak, drive, or function as a parent, upending the family almost overnight. During the next 15 months, they spiraled into hopelessness.

A family in crisis

In early March of 2021, Jeanna Burrill, RN, Intermountain Healthcare Neurosciences, became aware of Brian’s medical needs and the family’s challenges. She contacted Homespire to make a service introduction.

When Homespire Nurse Care Manager, Meggan Newbold, RN, met with Brian and Janell at their home, she knew immediately that the family was in crisis. There were piles of dirty clothes throughout the house, the Christmas tree still standing, the children hadn’t attended school in over a year, and their mother hadn’t bathed in two months. Between their mom’s depression and their dad’s aphasia (inability to speak), the boys had been spending most of their time playing video games, with no parental guidance to enforce schoolwork, chores, or hygiene.

Tapping into resources

Realizing that the family needed additional support, services, and expertise, Meggan reached out to her colleague, Homespire Community Liaison Emily Redd, a social worker with over 10 of experience in social services. Together, they created a two-pronged care plan: Meggan would focus on Brian’s recovery and Emily on Janell and the boys’ needs.

Meggan worked with Jeanna, the nurse at Intermountain Healthcare, to find free resources for Brian’s physical, occupational, and speech therapy. With the couple’s approval, Meggan enlisted the help of Alex, an experienced Homespire caregiver to assist Brian with his therapy exercises.

“Brian was deeply frustrated that he couldn’t provide for his family, financially or emotionally,” Emily said. “His recovery depended both on his physical, speech, and occupational therapy and on our ability to stabilize the family.”

To address the second factor—stabilizing the family—Emily and Meggan met with the couple to identify their goals. “We asked them what had been working before that wasn’t happening now,” Emily said. “When we asked about their top priorities, they said it was to improve the home environment and get the kids back in school.”

A path out of the chaos

Emily created a daily chore-and-hygiene schedule for Janell and the boys. Next, Emily, the boys, and Alex, who donated an extra hour of his time at the end of his first two shifts with Brian, sorted through boxes, bins, and bags of clothes and shoes, deciding what to keep, donate, or toss.

Before leaving that day, Emily promised that if they all took showers AND did three loads of laundry by that Friday, she’d buy them all a round of burgers and shakes. “When I arrived there on Friday morning, they were sitting in the living room folding clothes and everyone, including Janell, had showered!”

It was a good first step, but Emily knew she had to engage Janell in parenting, or nothing would change. “I asked her, ‘What do you want done while I’m picking up lunch?’ She gave me a list and I told the boys, ‘You have exactly half an hour to get this done.’” By the time Emily returned, the kids had wiped down the cupboards, counters, and refrigerator.

As the days passed and they tackled new chores and adopted new hygiene habits, Emily could see the spark returning to their eyes. “They’re great kids—smart, funny, and full of light—but they were sad,” she said.

Back to school

To address Brian and Janell’s other goal—the kids’ school attendance—Emily asked Janell to schedule a meeting with the school counselor and social worker to discuss the process of getting the boys back into school. Because they’d fallen behind academically, Emily worked with Janell and the school to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEP) to address the children’s learning and behavioral challenges.

With in-person classes starting in April, the boys needed clothes. Emily and Meggan reached out to Homespire coworkers, friends, and neighbors to ask for gently used boys’ clothing and shoes in the boys’ sizes. “The response was incredible! After raiding our sons’ closets—with their permission, of course—we amassed an impressive collection of name-brand sweatshirts, jeans, shirts, jackets, and sneakers,” Emily said. “I think it was as meaningful for the community as it was for the boys.”

They also contacted Brian’s children from his previous marriage to ask if they would pitch in. They were immediately on board with taking Brian to his therapy sessions, helping the boys with schoolwork and chores, and hanging out with them at the park. According to Emily, these young people added an element of stability and fun to the boys’ lives.

Progress interrupted

To take pressure off Janell, Meggan coordinated Brian’s out-patient therapy and made sure he kept his appointments, while Emily worked with the couple to stabilize the family’s emotional and mental well-being.

To help shore up the family’s finances, Janell had started a new job, but in May 2021, she began experiencing numbness, ringing in her ears, balance issues, and double vision. She shared her symptoms with her Nurse Care Manager, Meggan, who immediately took to her to the emergency room.

Janell was referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist, but after a second trip to the ER, Meggan insisted on a thorough workup which led to the correct diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Due to the progression of her condition, Janell was hospitalized for 17 days, compounding the financial and emotional burdens which had already overwhelmed the family.

To make sure Brian kept up with his therapies, Meggan coordinated with Homespire Home Health to provide in-home PT and OT while continuing to advocate for Janell’s care.

Hope comes home

The next several months were marked by health challenges, both physical and emotional, but there have also been signs of hope: Janell started working full-time from home as a customer service rep; Brian has gained some strength and can now walk a few steps with the support of a cane; the boys are back in school; and the family adopted a dog named Hazel. They have a long road ahead of them, but with the support of their Homespire team, they’re moving forward.

Stay tuned for exciting news that speaks to the incredible generosity of our community and the outpouring of love for this family!

Homespire offers life-changing services and support to help you and your loved ones through whatever challenges you’re facing. To learn more, schedule a free consultation.