Ecumen Lakeshore Team Member Receives a Special Thank You

By CorrineMcCallum | February 21, 2023

Dean and his wife LaDonna
Dean with his wife, LaDonna
Dean with Occupational Therapist Hannah
Dean with Hanna, his Occupational Therapist while at Ecumen Lakeshore

DULUTH, MN (February 21, 2023) — Gratitude goes a long way. You could say it goes as far as a 2.5-hour long road trip from Pequot Lakes, MN, to Duluth, MN, in a snowstorm.

Dean, a newly retired resident of Pequot Lakes, was looking forward to all that life had to offer as he and his wife, LaDonna, were enjoying retirement up north, exploring the town and enjoying all the lakes in the area. Because Dean is immunocompromised, he made sure he took all possible COVID precautions, including vaccinations and boosters. Unfortunately, the virus found a way into Dean’s life and forever changed it.

After beating COVID-19, Dean found that he was still struggling with his breathing, and at the end of February 2022, he had developed a very bad cough which turned into a case of pneumonia. From there, his physical and mental health declined. He found himself struggling with panic attacks, shortness of breath and a debilitating cough. After being admitted to hospital after hospital, and multiple bronchoscopies later, the family was still struggling to find an exact answer as to what was going on.

The day of discharge from a Duluth hospital, Dean tested positive for COVID-19 again. He was sent home to recover. Once back in Pequot Lakes, Dean was still having panic attacks and low oxygen levels. Dean and LaDonna needed answers. Dean was finally airlifted to Mayo Clinic in Rochester as he was declining rapidly.

Upon arrival, it was determined that the virus had settled deep within his lungs, causing many issues, and requiring him to be in isolation for almost two months. LaDonna was told to head back home to Pequot Lakes as she couldn’t see Dean in person. Dean found himself lonely and depressed. “Nurses would come into my room to check on me, but there was no conversing, no human-touch, nothing,” Dean said. “That is what I missed the most.”

After a long and challenging 80 days in and out of hospitals, Dean and LaDonna began looking at transitional care units (TCU) but found that many wouldn’t take him due to the level of care he needed.

It was at that time that Dean and LaDonna were introduced to Ecumen Lakeshore — The Fountains Transitional Care. Without hesitation, Ecumen Lakeshore admitted him on a Friday afternoon.

“We drove into the parking lot and there were three nurses aides waiting for us, ready to help,” said LaDonna. “They were fantastic from day one.”

Dean still had a long road to recovery, but the care he received at Ecumen Lakeshore helped him recover quicker than he thought. “I saw smiling faces and heard words of encouragement from the moment I entered Ecumen,” he said. “That is what you need when you’re healing.” 

Throughout his physical and occupational therapy, Dean immediately connected with Hannah, an Ecumen Occupational Therapist.  “Hannah and Dean just clicked right away,” LaDonna said. “She was the answer to our prayers.”  Hannah was the highlight of Dean’s day.  He couldn’t wait to see her!

Because the long hospitalizations and recovery process had taken a toll on Dean’s mental health, Hannah took the time to determine the best ways to support Dean through his anxiety. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Dean said. “She’s an angel, no question about it.”

Once he was discharged, Dean knew he needed to see Hannah again and thank her for saving his life. “I wanted to show her how far I have come since my stay at Lakeshore,” Dean said.

So, Dean and LaDonna made the 2.5 hour trek to Duluth from their home in Pequot Lakes to surprise Hannah during her lunch break. When Hannah realized it was Dean, she cried and hugged him for two minutes straight.

Dean is now back home, building a woodshop, shoveling snow and finally enjoying retired life up north with LaDonna.

“Don’t give up. There are people that care. You never know when you’ll meet your angel,” Dean said. Dean met his at Ecumen Lakeshore.

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About Ecumen

Ecumen is a nonprofit provider, developer and operator of award-winning living spaces and innovative technology and services for older adults. Mission-driven since its founding in 1862, Ecumen’s legacy of service is a reflection of a commitment to honoring those it serves. Ecumen is based in Shoreview, Minn., and operates properties and services in multiple states, and provides new development, management and consulting services. Housing options include cooperative living, independent living, assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation and long-term care communities. Its diverse in-home and community-based services include home care, hospice, physical and occupational therapy, adult day services, technology products and an online durable goods medical store. For more information, visit