The Laurie Sprague Story

Laurie entered the world on November 8, 1961. An early diagnosis indicated that Laurie was a Down's Syndrome child with a congenital heart defect. Her parents, Helen and Bob, were advised at the time of diagnosis to consider placing Laurie in a residential care facility. However, Helen and Bob decided to care for Laurie in their home. As she grew, Laurie participated in life: going to church and a special needs school and joining her parents and friends with family activities such as vacations. She was active in church events and was involved with her parents in supporting the community with activities such as Meals-on-Wheels. At the age of 46 Laurie began a significant physical decline and a decision was made for Laurie to enter hospice care for her final earthly days. Through Laurie's physician Helen became aware of VNA Hospice service and we were contacted on April 22, 2008.

During her time in our hospice care, Laurie and her parents extended their family to include the VNA hospice staff that provided competent comfort care to Laurie and her family. The VNA team provided skilled nursing care and help with Laurie's everyday needs as she became weaker. Social work support and spiritual care was provided on a weekly basis. VNA volunteers offered additional care in whatever capacity that was required for supporting Laurie and family during this part of Laurie's earthly journey. Volunteers assisted Laurie with her meals. Our social workers connected the family with community resources and advised Laurie's parents on issues as Laurie declined and the social dynamics of the family changed. The VNA chaplain provided weekly scripture readings from a children's bible along with traditional songs that were familiar to Laurie. Weekly scripture readings from their Christian Lectionary and prayer were also made available to Laurie's parents.

Laurie was an avid sports fan. She enjoyed watching or listening to the Bears, Sox and especially the Cubs. She didn't appreciate the Hawks because of her aversion to the display of violence. Laurie was an expert on the Cub's statistics. She was able to recollect amazing details of their performance during their most recent 20 years. The VNA chaplain helped Laurie to assemble a collection of sports scrapbook pictures featuring her favorite local teams. Laurie spent many hours with her father arranging the scrapbooks and proudly displaying them to her many visitors. She invented comical nicknames for prominent Chicago sport figures such as Butthead for Kevin Butler. A VNA volunteer arranged for a visit with a former Cub's pitcher and this of course was one of Laurie's special moments while she was in the VNA's Hospice care. A volunteer also would visit with a favorite dog bringing Laurie many smiles and the opportunity to share her excitement with her many visitors. VNA also arranged for Laurie to visit a petting farm where Laurie was able to bond with some of her favorite animals.

Laurie passed on from this life on February 18, 2011. The Sprague family's pastor was not available and the VNA chaplain provided the memorial and graveside burial service. A highlight of the service was the singing of Laurie and her parent's favorite song "This little light of mine." It characterized Laurie's personality to all who were fortunate to know her.

After Laurie's passing, Helen and Bob generously donated Laurie's extensive collection of stuffed animals and dolls to the VNA for patients in its children's clinic. Her books, including the children's bible and her scrap books were given to her local church for their youth activities.

VNA involvement with the Sprague family continued after Laurie's death. Helen and Robert received spiritual support visits from the VNA chaplain for the year following her funeral. Laurie's parents also attended the VNA grief support groups that are offered for the community and participated in the annual VNA memorial services.

Recently Robert also became a patient in the VNA Home Health service. It was during this time that the VNA Chaplain asked Helen and Bob to characterize the service received form VNA. Their response was that the VNA people made the difference. They expressed that all the various staff from VNA were always competent, compassionate, caring, and professional. Their assessment of the VNA service was always "Comfort and Care."

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