No better reason for Thanksgiving than the return of a life

My mother was under hospice care for 16 months and didn’t die. The Bible says, “Choose life,” and that’s what LaVerne Morrison did.

On Feb. 4, 2008, she had a brain seizure at home, fell out of her wheelchair and broke her hip.

She had been ill for about eight months before that, in and out of Summerlin Hospital and Las Ventanas Skilled Nursing Facility with various health problems, including complications from severe pain from rheumatoid arthritis.

But the seizure, broken hip and a blood clot, all mixed together, turned life-threatening. For the next month, she got worse.

Even so, my father and I were shocked when her doctor mentioned that we might want to consider hospice.

In March 2008, Nathan Adelson Hospice entered our lives. The experts deemed her “hospice appropriate,” a polite term for “Your mother is likely to die within six months.”

She was well-cared for at Las Ventanas, and hospice served her there and helped me and my father. Repeatedly, her evaluation was “hospice appropriate.”

Mama remembers nothing of that 16 months. She doesn’t remember the holidays, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings and anniversaries that we tried to make special. Her moods were up and down. Her speech was limited. She could say “yes” and “no,” and her broad smile was a perpetual gift. But she was not getting better. Often, she was out of it. At times, she said she wanted to die.

My dad spent about five hours a day with her, feeding her lunch and dinner because she couldn’t feed herself. My weekends were organized around feeding mom lunch, trying to talk to her, read to her, keep her engaged.

She was bedridden but could be transferred into a wheelchair. Swallowing became difficult, so she was put on pureed food and lost one-third of her weight.

Then the unforeseen occurred. She was still eating pureed food, but she asked for physical therapy. She was taken off hospice care in July 2009 and began rehab.

On or off hospice, there were tears, anger and frustration one day and smiles and kisses the next. She grew stronger and eventually was able to eat normal food and feed herself.

After nine months of therapy at Las Ventanas, just before Easter, Mama returned home.

Now 81, she continues to improve steadily. She’s still in her wheelchair, and she’s managing well at home with her husband of 55 years, Jim Morrison. She is faithful about therapy. It exhausts her, but she works hard. She doesn’t complain.

She has a stated goal. She wants to be able to walk.

Our family discovered hospice doesn’t always mean the end. Sometimes, it provides a period of rest before recuperation.

Why she rallied against death more than once is not certain. Her doctor since 1998, Dr. Lawrence Copeland, said the period when she was “out of it” might have given her brain time to heal on its own. “She healed herself? Divine intervention?” he speculated.

My father’s constant daily prayers, and the prayer work of family and friends, along with the knowledge that she was in God’s care, surely contributed to her healing.

Carole Fisher, president of Nathan Adelson Hospice, said what happened to my mom is rare. Out of the 2,400 patients each year admitted to Nathan Adelson, only 35 to 40 leave. Some get better. Some move out of the area. Some decide to pursue aggressive treatment.

Neither Fisher nor the Morrisons want to offer false hope to other hospice patients or their families. My mother’s case is not typical. Sometimes life prevails. At Las Ventanas they called her the “miracle lady.”

May your Thanksgiving be as happy as ours is this year as we give thanks and share my mom’s story of hope.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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