Carole Sumner sits with her dog, Kiki, while her cat, Zippidy, looks out the window of her living room at Pine Grove Apartments in Gainesville. Sumner entered hospice care at the beginning of 2019 for stage four kidney failure.
Carole Sumner sits with her dog, Kiki, while her cat, Zippidy, looks out the window of her living room at Pine Grove Apartments in Gainesville. Sumner entered hospice care at the beginning of 2019 for stage four kidney failure.
Carole is evaluated by her Haven Hospice nurse, CJ Judd. CJ has been caring for Carole for about five months. Carole worked as a licensed practical nurse for 27 years. "Every day we're dying. We're moving away from birth and closer to death every day," she said. "There has to be a point where you draw the line. You should make that decision for yourself," Carole said on her decision to start hospice care.
Carole is evaluated by her Haven Hospice nurse, CJ Judd. CJ has been caring for Carole for about five months. Carole worked as a licensed practical nurse for 27 years. “Every day we’re dying. We’re moving away from birth and closer to death every day,” she said. “There has to be a point where you draw the line. You should make that decision for yourself,” Carole said on her decision to start hospice care.

WUFT News Photo Story by Chris Day

Carole Sumner decided to face her final days with courage — in the fellowship of friends, the comfort of her sister, the devotion of her pets and a caring relationship with hospice.

Sumner, a 64-year-old retired nurse, has had numerous health complications over the last few years and lives with multiple autoimmune diseases, stage four kidney failure and pulmonary edema. After previously undergoing heart surgery, Sumner was told that a second surgery on a different valve would be necessary, but she was too terrified to go through the procedure again. “I woke up with the ventilator in terror and panic,” she said.

Sumner decided to focus on the quality of her life instead of its length. Since living at Pine Grove Apartments in Gainesville, Sumner said the quality of her life has been better, playing with her grandkids and gardening in back of the assisted living facility. Plus, she has been feeling healthier since receiving care from CJ and Haven Hospice. “Life is so much more manageable and happier,” Sumner said. Although she said there are days when she feels like she is ready to die, those thoughts dissolve as quickly as they form when she looks at her pets. Her dog, Kiki, and cat, Zippidy, keep her company and occupy her time.

Sumner moved to Gainesville in 2015 to be closer to her sister, Mary Park-Smith. She spends time with her friends Beth Paglianlrini and Aida Blackon, who live in her apartment complex and help her garden and take care of Zippidy. In addition to her friends, Sumner’s nurse, CJ Judd, also makes her stay at Pine Grove more enjoyable. CJ has been a registered nurse for 26 years, working with hospice patients on and off. She said that hospice work is very rewarding and its mission to assist those in need always spoke to her.

People don’t often like talking about death or the quality of one’s life, Sumner said. But she feels that hospice has greatly improved her living situation and is making her final years bearable. “Hospice doesn’t mean death, to me, it’s life,” Sumner said. “Hospice is life.”

Carole said she has been feeling more healthy since starting hospice because she isn't feeling stressed about going to the hospital. She says that with hospice, "They find and tweak your body to where you're doing good. You are able to be comfortable and functional." Her medicine is primarily for pain management. She says she used to be in constant pain that felt like a heart attack prior to beginning hospice, she said.
Carole said she has been feeling more healthy since starting hospice because she isn’t feeling stressed about going to the hospital. She says that with hospice, “They find and tweak your body to where you’re doing good. You are able to be comfortable and functional.” Her medicine is primarily for pain management. She says she used to be in constant pain that felt like a heart attack prior to beginning hospice, she said.
Carole receives a check-up from CJ. Patients are viable for hospice care if they have a life expectancy of six months or less. "You're not hastening your death. You're calming it," Carole said about hospice. "And you're not hastening your family's anxiety."
Carole receives a check-up from CJ. Patients are viable for hospice care if they have a life expectancy of six months or less. “You’re not hastening your death. You’re calming it,” Carole said about hospice. “And you’re not hastening your family’s anxiety.”
CJ visits Carole once a week for checkups, but the hospice nurse is available whenever Carole needs her. Carole worked as a licensed practical nurse for 27 years. "Every day we're dying. We're moving away from birth and closer to death every day," she said. "There has to be a point where you draw the line. You should make that decision for yourself," Carole said on her decision to start hospice care.
CJ visits Carole once a week for checkups, but the hospice nurse is available whenever Carole needs her. CJ has been working with Carole for about four months, but had worked with hospice patients occasionally over her 26-years as an RN . “I worked a lot of critical care and stuff like that, and it always sort of spoke to me, and it’s very rewarding.”

Every day we’re dying. We’re moving away from birth and closer to death every day. Hospice doesn’t mean death. To me it’s life. Hospice is life.

 

Carole locks the door to her apartment while her sister, Mary Park-Smith, waits for her with Carole's dog Kiki. Mary visits Carole every Monday and normally walks Kiki with her around the apartment complex. Carole moved to Gainesville from Maryville, Tennessee to be closer to Mary in 2015. Mary takes Carole to get groceries and pick up her medication most weeks.
Carole locks the door to her apartment while her sister, Mary Park-Smith, waits for her with Carole’s dog Kiki. Mary visits Carole every Monday and normally walks Kiki with her around the apartment complex. Carole moved to Gainesville from Maryville, Tennessee to be closer to Mary in 2015. Mary takes Carole to get groceries and pick up her medication most weeks.
Beth Paglianlrini (left), Carole (middle) and Aida Balkcon (right) work in the garden outside of Carole's apartment complex. All three women live in the complex and often spend time together working on the garden. Aida frequently walks Carole's dog Kiki and Beth watches Kiki if Carole leaves the complex to get groceries or medication.
Beth Paglianlrini (left), Carole (middle) and Aida Balkcon (right) work in the garden outside of Carole’s apartment complex. All three women live in the complex and often spend time together working on the garden. Aida frequently walks Carole’s dog Kiki and Beth watches Kiki if Carole leaves the complex to get groceries or medication.
Carole pauses to look over the flowers in the garden outside her apartment complex. Each summer Carole plants new flowers in the plot of dirt as a way to get outside. However, she fears this may be the last year she can as she tires more easily then she used to and can't work in the heat for long.
Carole pauses to look over the flowers in the garden outside her apartment complex. Each summer Carole plants new flowers in the plot of dirt as a way to get outside. However, she fears this may be the last year she can as she tires more easily then she used to and can’t work in the heat for long.

There are days when Carole says she is tired of living, but all she has to do is pick up her dog or cat and those feelings go away.

 

Carole's cat, Zippidy, sits next to her oxygen line in her apartment. Carole wipes the line with Tobasco sauce to prevent Zippidy from biting holes in it. "You have to let me breath, at least for the day," Carole said as Zippidy began pawing at the line.
Carole’s cat, Zippidy, sits next to her oxygen line in her apartment. Carole wipes the line with Tobasco sauce to prevent Zippidy from biting holes in it. “You have to let me breath, at least for the day,” Carole said as Zippidy began pawing at the line.
Carole rests her head a few minutes after CJ, her nurse from Haven Hospice, left from doing the weekly check-up. During the visit, Carole said there are days when she is tired of living but that all she has to do is pick up her dog or cat tand those feelings go away. Carole says that a lot of people don't like "talking death" and are uncomfortable with the topic. "Hospice doesn't mean death," she said. "To me it's life. Hospice is life."
Carole rests her head a few minutes after CJ, her nurse from Haven Hospice, left from doing the weekly check-up. During the visit, Carole said there are days when she is tired of living but, all she has to do is pick up her dog or cat and those feelings go away. Carole says that a lot of people don’t like “talking death” and are uncomfortable with the topic. “Hospice doesn’t mean death,” she said. “To me it’s life. Hospice is life.”