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When their mother died 18 years ago, brother and sister, Joe and Karin De Francis, came to rely on her older sister Marie Sanderson, now the family matriarch, as somewhat of a surrogate mom. “Auntie Marie never had children of her own, but we were always close. My mom was from a large, tight-knit Italian family who valued loyalty, honor, and devotion, so in many ways, Auntie Marie filled the void left by our mother,” Joe says.
A long-time resident of Buffalo, New York, Marie, at the age of 97, was living alone in the cherished home she grew up in. Though Karin and Joe reside in Maryland, Karin had been active in her care and a frequent visitor to Buffalo.
“Auntie Marie has always been very self-sufficient and full of life,” Joe explains. “Then, earlier this year, she experienced an unexpected but sudden and severe case of congestive heart failure. Her condition appeared so bad that our cousin called an ambulance.”
Unfortunately, Karin and Joe were not happy with the care Marie received at the facility she was initially taken to. “They took minimal care of her—certainly not to the standards we all envisioned—and she developed bed sores so bad she almost gave up hope. But she’s always been a tough cookie, an iron fist in a velvet glove, and no one was giving up—it’s not in our family DNA,” says Karin.
When Marie failed to improve, Karin and Joe researched their options, ultimately arranging for her to be admitted to MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital. “She fell in love with her team at the hospital. In just six weeks she bounced back from being barely alive to her vibrant self with a zest for life. She didn’t want to leave,” Karin notes.
Since then, Marie has moved to an apartment in Baltimore and is once again enjoying life with her surrogate children nearby. She has healed and is on medication to manage her heart condition.
Joe and Karin were so grateful for the outgoing, positive, and professional staff at MedStar NRH that they decided to express their appreciation through a philanthropic investment to the Adding Life to Years® campaign at the hospital, the goal of which is to better meet the needs of patients by enhancing the patient care areas, which includes transitioning to all private patient rooms.
“She kept asking to return to MedStar NRH to visit the team who cared for her so expertly,” Joe adds. “And we did just that a couple of weeks ago! She was ecstatic, and we were so impressed her team of doctors and therapists made time to welcome her back and celebrate her recovery. We have the Marie we know and love back thanks to their compassion and expertise.”