PROVIDENCE OREGON – There is a sticky note that has a permanent place at Providence Oregon Hospice Nurse Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s desk. It says, “I found a horse.”
For Elizabeth, it’s a note that note represents the work that went into fulfilling a patient’s dying wish, as well as how working together can make create a truly special moment. In this case, it was bringing a horse to a cancer patient.
Lorri Taylor, 69, was admitted to Providence Oregon Hospice care in March of 2023 with terminal lung cancer. That’s when caregivers learned about one of Lorri’s very personal dreams – she wanted to touch a horse before she died.
The call went out to all of Providence hospice locations in hopes of finding a horse that could visit Lorri. A clerical assistant with Providence Hospice of the Gorge knew just the person who could help and connected with a professor with the Clackamas 4-H – OSU Extension service youth development program. Together, they found a horse owner who immediately agreed to share her horse, Milo.
Meeting Milo the horse
In collaboration with a recreation therapist, it was time to begin the magical day. Lorri was taken to the garden area, where she met Milo the horse and immediately glowed with happiness. She walked around with the horse from her wheelchair. She nuzzled with Milo. Other patients got to experience the horse, as well.
There weren’t many dry eyes.
“It was probably one of the best days I’ve had at work in a really long time,” said Ann Walter, R.N., a hospice nurse. “It was awesome.”
Lorri met Milo on April 8. Just a few days later, Lorri died.
“Every single day, every patient I see, every family I meet, it’s all about the love they have for each other. That’s why I do hospice. It feeds my heart every single day. It gives me faith in the world and people.” - Ann Walter, R.N.
Remembering the wish
Elizabeth says when she leads presentations at different facilities, she likes to compare hospice to the weather in Oregon. People may think it just never stops being rainy and dreary in Oregon, but because of all that rain, the spring and summer are sublime in our state.
“Hospice care isn’t all rainy days. There is beauty everywhere,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was so inspired by Lorri’s wish being fulfilled, and the joy it brought her and many others, she decided to take on a special challenge.
Elizabeth completed the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge with a fellow hospice nurse. It was a 26-mile hike at Silver Falls, and they helped raise thousands of dollars to support more wishes coming true for patients.
Elizabeth also kept the sticky note on her desk, the one that says, “I found a horse.” It’s a reminder of not only what was accomplished for a patient that day, but what Providence continues to accomplish for patients every day.