A Mother's Story: How EveryStep Hospice Provided Comfort and a New Purpose

Pictured above: Debbie's daughter, Leslie

Leslie Tingwald respected, cared for and loved the sick and elderly her entire life. When Leslie’s four-year cancer journey ended at just 47 years-of-age, her mother, Debbie Grimes, says Leslie was given the same respect, care and love from the people Debbie now calls “family” at EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House in Des Moines.

“Leslie was just a very warm and caring individual. She was a wonderful human being,” says Debbie about her daughter, whose career included working at nursing homes, a hospice house and the oncology unit of a Des Moines hospital. “She was a very loving person, especially to the elderly and people in need.” When Leslie was diagnosed with gastric cancer, she found herself on the receiving end of the care that she had dedicated to others.

Debbie says her daughter was a fighter. “The oncologist at University Hospitals in Iowa City told us people with the type of cancer Leslie had typically live about 18 months. Leslie lived four years.” But earlier this year, it was concluded Leslie had run out of treatment options and the conversation about hospice began.

“Our goal was to just have her come home to us for her last days,” says Debbie. An appointment was scheduled at EveryStep’s Kavanagh House to determine what they would need to do to care for Leslie at home. “The doctor quickly recognized Leslie was on a lot of medications and although it was totally our decision whether to take her home, we all decided it was best that she stay at Kavanagh House.”

Her daughter’s month-long stay at EveryStep’s Kavanagh House changed Debbie’s life. “A couple of weeks in, we started staying at the house pretty much 24/7, so we got to see the staff at all times of the day and night. They became family and they are still family. They are the most kind, loving people ever – from the nurses, doctors and staff to the housekeepers – they were amazing, always putting us first. The love, care and respect they show the patients, even in their last days and hours, the tenderness and thoughtfulness – they’re just amazing people that work there every day.”

As a mother, Debbie had trouble leaving Leslie when she had other obligations to fulfill. “A few days into Leslie’s stay, I knew if I had to leave for some reason, my mind was at ease, and I didn’t have to worry that she wasn’t getting constant care. I think that was my greatest comfort – knowing that I could leave and my worry level wasn’t at a 100. I knew if I couldn’t be there, she was in tremendous hands.”

The first few weeks of Leslie’s stay at Kavanagh House, she was able to visit with her family and friends. “We were very fortunate to use the deck,” says Debbie. “The deck was just incredibly comforting - to be able to go out and use the fresh air, especially when her children were there.” The last week, Debbie says Leslie started to become a bit sleepier and on June 10, she passed away.

Debbie says EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House is a place where she still finds comfort.

“I’m drawn there,” says Debbie. “I feel Leslie was loved there so much, that I’m drawn to go back. I swore on her grave that I would go every week and bring goodies for the kitchen and say hello at Kavanagh House. They are family to us and I’ll go there every week until I die or until I can’t go. That’s how much of an impression they made on our family and me.”

EveryStep Hospice helps those living with a serious illness make the best out of every day. Most hospice care is provided through in-home hospice services; however, when a patient needs around-the-clock hospice care to manage their pain and symptoms, EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House in Des Moines is available. Kavanagh House provides a home-like atmosphere with private bedrooms, living rooms, a family kitchen, spa room, children's play areas and other family amenities. To learn more about EveryStep Hospice, visit https://www.everystep.org/services/hospice.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at https://www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.