Patient Johnie Mullins is surrounded by her hospice cardiac care staff. From left are Certified Nurse Assistant Dana Walker, Hospice Nurse Nancy Smith, Mullins and Social Worker Kirsten Blanton.
Lincolnton resident and former Mohican Mills worker Johnie Mullins was placed under hospice care late last year with little hope for recovery, but her dramatic health improvements in the last six months have stunned caretakers and medical professionals alike.
“They just didn’t expect me to live,” she said. “I fooled all of them.”
Johnie was routinely hospitalized for congestive heart failure before Palliative CareCenter & Hospice of Catawba Valley (PCHCV) took her under their wing in December. She’s specifically in the Cardiac Treatment Program.
While PCHCV also offers palliative care, necessary for relieving the suffering of patients who have been diagnosed with curable and non-curable illnesses, doctors specifically requested that Johnie be placed in hospice care because of her dire condition and their belief that her days were severely numbered.
Prior to hospice care, Johnie’s weight gain, which consisted primarily of fluid build-up around her heart, kept her from enjoying life, including driving and leaving the house.
She also suffers from diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more recently, pancreatitis, according to her primary hospice care nurse, Nancy Smith, who has no doubt she’s been “called” to hospice nursing.
“You not only bless others, but you also get blessed,” she said. “We want to get involved early on so we can have a relationship with the patient.”
Nancy visits Johnie’s house three times a week to check on her and assist her in taking a cocktail of nearly 20 different medications, something about which Johnie now likes to joke.
“You name it,” she said, “I probably got a pill for it.”
She told the Times-News Thursday that humor helps her stay positive.
“It keeps me going,” she said.
She also joked about her “good store-bought teeth” and how they force her to smile more.
“I gotta show them off,” she said. “They cost a lot of money.”
The 48-year-old also finds joy in her husband “Big Dave” and their five cats.
“I love my kitties,” she said.
Since hospice has been treating Johnie, she’s lost more than 60 pounds of fluid and can get behind the wheel again to run errands once a week.
While there are still days when her exhaustion overtakes her, she makes less frequent trips to the doctor and is more timely and organized with taking her medication and other breathing treatments.
“If there’s anything wrong, all I have to do is call Nancy,” Johnie said.
PCHCV Marketing Specialist Jason Meyer said Johnie’s transformation has been both physical and emotional
“Her social worker was blown away by her change in appearance,” she said, “Johnie looked and felt different.”
Social workers serve as a liaison between the patient and community resources. They also help patients pay bills and complete additional legal responsibilities.
“Anything we can have our hand in, we do,” Jason said of the organization’s goal to offer patients “holistic care.”
He added that hospice officials care for patients at any location they chose, whether it’s at home or the hospital.
“We serve anywhere you call home,” he said.
Johnie’s thankful she can be cared for at her residence and not the hospital or a nursing home where she once spent four weeks.
“It’s not perfect, it’s not spotless, but it’s my home,” she said.
Johnie praised the hospice team for the positive impact they’ve had in her life over the last six months.
“They’ve taught me a lot,” she said. “They keep me in line and make sure that I take care of myself.”
For more information about Palliative CareCenter & Hospice of Catawba Valley, visit pchcv.org.